EDITORIAL: More good news

By NEMS Daily Journal

The trend of increasingly good economic news continued last week in Northeast Mississippi with another positive Toyota-related development.
Toyota Boshoku – a major supplier for the Toyota plant in Blue Springs that will be producing Corollas in the fall of 2011 – announced Friday it will gear up hiring immediately and be at 250 employees by the time vehicle production starts.
Toyota Boshoku’s $46 million, 404,000-square-foot plant in Itawamba County will make seats, door panels and sun visors for the Corolla. It’s one of eight already announced suppliers for the Blue Springs plant.
Lee County’s major supplier, Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi in Baldwyn, announced in August that it was ramping back up in preparation for the 2011 Corolla production. It will employ 300 by then.
Toyota and its suppliers are expected to employ in the neighborhood of 4,000 workers when the plant is in full operation.
When Toyota announced in December 2008 it was putting on hold its scheduled 2010 vehicle production because of the economic downturn, some skeptics wondered if the company might walk away from the project, even with $300 million already invested in construction of the Blue Springs plant. But Toyota has always been a company that kept its word, and that has been the case since it announced intentions in 2007 to locate in Northeast Mississippi.
At every step along the way, the company has been true to its commitments, including making a first installment on the $50 million it pledged for educational enhancements in the three PUL Alliance counties and paying interest on state loans that accrued because of the delay in production.
The announcement in June that Toyota would get back on track with a new production target was the best economic news the region had received since the economy began its noticeable slide. Since then, most of the economic announcements in Northeast Mississippi – including several in the severely hit furniture industry – have been about job growth.
The region’s unemployment remains unacceptably high, and many people are still hurting because of job losses. But things are beginning to look up as employers start to see better times ahead.
Toyota and its suppliers won’t by themselves produce a full-blown economic recovery in Northeast Mississippi, but there is little doubt that they will be a key driver.
For more than two years most of the economic news in the region was dismal. That has changed in recent months, and the long-term prognosis for the ailing Northeast Mississippi economy has significantly improved.