EDITORIAL: Toyota optimism

Monday’s formal announcement that Toyota will begin accepting applications for employment at its Corolla assembly plant at Blue Springs in Union County is the most welcome economic news since the decision to locate in Northeast Mississippi was made public in February 2007.
Hundreds gathered Monday morning at Itawamba Community College’s Belden center for Gov. Haley Barbour’s declaration that Toyota is accepting online applications for the 2,000-employee plant. Production is scheduled to begin in fall 2011.
An additional 2,000-plus jobs are expected to open up at Toyota’s tier one suppliers’ plants in the region.
In 2008 the weak U.S. auto market led to Toyota’s indefinite delay in production, but external and interior work at the massive Blue Springs plant was completed, with the company repeatedly committing itself to eventually assembling cars in Mississippi.
The Corolla is the third vehicle announced for production at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi – TMMMS. The first was the Highlander SUV, then the Prius, Toyota’s high-mileage hybrid.
The Corolla, whose previous U.S. production in a plant near San Francisco ceased earlier this year, is the world’s largest-selling auto. More than 40 million have been sold since the model’s introduction in 1968. Almost 300,000 were sold in the U.S. during 2009.
A full work force at the TMMMS plant will create a boon for the region’s and state’s economy. Community Development Foundation President David Rumbarger said Monday the skilled maintenance workers, tool and die employees and electrical specialists would earn $18 to $25 per hour; skilled assembly workers would earn $15.50 to $21 per hour.
All production job levels have a 35 percent benefits ratio, Rumbarger said.
The Economics and Business Research Group’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Michigan 2007 forecast approximately 4,320 direct, indirect, and induced jobs (2,000 direct jobs at the plant) and $261.6 million in total annual compensation would be generated at full production.
Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government research found, for comparison, that in 2003 when Toyota announced that it would open a truck plant in San Antonio the “Office of the Controller of the State of Texas forecast that the state would gain 16,000 jobs, of which 12,000 would be permanent….
“A 2002 study conducted by the Goodman Group at the University of Southern Mississippi estimated that Nissan … in Canton … would generate 16,212 direct and indirect jobs in Mississippi by 2005.”
Optimism is high. Next year, cars off the line.

NEMS Daily Journal