Toyota Kentucky leader: Community unity is key

Lauren Wood | Daily Journal Toyota Manufacturing Company-Kentucky President Wilbert James, Jr., center, laughs as he talks with Mayor Jason Shelton and Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden Saturday evening before the start of the Tupelo-Lee County NAACP branch's Freedom Fund banquet. James was the keynote speaker of the event.

Lauren Wood | Daily Journal
Toyota Manufacturing Company-Kentucky President Wilbert James, Jr., center, laughs as he talks with Mayor Jason Shelton and Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden Saturday evening before the start of the Tupelo-Lee County NAACP branch’s Freedom Fund banquet. James was the keynote speaker of the event.

By JB Clark

Daily Journal

TUPELO – Unity was the theme of Wilbert James’ keynote address at the Tupelo/Lee County NAACP’s annual Freedom Fund banquet Saturday night.

James, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky, said in Toyota, unity goes beyond racial subsets.

“We work hard to support the community and try to understand what the community’s needs are and how corporate and community can really work together,” he said.

James said the unity of all aspects of a community helps meet that community’s needs.

“When we move into a community, we not only try to address the manufacturing needs of a plant but also try to see what we can do to support the local needs of the community,” he said.

James isn’t new to Tupelo. In his role at the Kentucky plant, he has helped train the staff of the Toyota plant in Blue Springs.

“It’s been heartwarming to see how the community is growing and blossoming at this early stage,” he said. “I can just imagine what Tupelo is going to be like in another 10 or 15 years and I have a very clear reference point because, when I started with Toyota in Georgetown, Ky., 26 years ago, Georgetown was a lot smaller than Tupelo was three years ago. I can look at how Georgetown and the Lexington area has really blossomed.”

James became connected to the Tupelo/Lee County NAACP through new member John Jones, who moved to Tupelo from the Georgetown area less than two years ago.

“We raised some money for Alcorn State University for the Medgar Evers statue. John and his wife moved down here and he has kept in contact,” James said.

The NAACP is an important community organization to James because its national organization is made up of local organizations that can meet specific needs in local communities.

Banquet Chairman Rev. Chris Traylor said one need that will be met with funds raised from the banquet is a voter identification drive.

“Our efforts will be to ensure that everyone, especially the grandmas and great grandmas, has a state issued photo ID so they can vote,” Traylor said.

The banquet’s theme this year was “We Shall Not Be Moved,” which Traylor said means members of the minority community are taking a stand not to move backwards in terms of responsibilities and progress gained.

“We will stand fast to our mission to make sure every American has equal opportunities,” he said.

jb.clark@journalinc.com

  • johrrty

    Without high paying jobs above the national average Tupelo will fail no matter how many people get identifying numbers tattooed on their wrist.