Employees ready for ‘I told you so’

By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Several of Toyota’s Mississippi employees were grinning Thursday as they joked about telling their friends, “I told you so.”
Aaron Foster of Booneville, Phillip Williams of Amory and Mark Campbell of Guntown have worked for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi since November 2007. Lakeshia Burkhead of Guntown has been on the project since January 2008.
They experienced the early excitement surrounding the plant and later, after it was put on hold indefinitely, the constant questions about the future.
“My typical answer,” said Foster, putting on a big smile, “was ‘It’s just a matter of when, folks. Not a matter of ‘if.’ I don’t know when that is, but we’re working really hard to make it happen.’”
The answer was even harder to deliver Wednesday night, Foster said, when people at church were asking him, saying they heard Toyota would make an announcement Thursday.
But he kept quiet, a skill he had learned the past few months while studying the Corolla project to see if it was feasible for Blue Springs.
After the restart celebration at the plant Thursday, Williams and the three other team members – Toyota’s term for employees – were saying that despite the naysayers, the employees were right with their answers of “when, not if.”
They joked about going around and telling people, “I told you so.”
Yet, Thursday’s celebration did strike a serious note with them.
“I actually got a little misty-eyed earlier,” Burkhead said. “It’s finally starting.”
Burkhead, who is in team member relations, took a “dispatch” assignment with Toyota to train in an Alabama plant when the Blue Springs plant was put on hold. She is working with Toyota to set a date for her return.
Campbell also took a dispatch assignment and went to its Texas plant for tool and die training.
“We launched a new vehicle there and I was part of that startup,” Campbell said. “It’ll come in real handy when we start the Corolla in Mississippi.”
Campbell, who originally is from Holly Springs, ends his Texas assignment in July. Toyota flew him home for the restart celebration Thursday.
“They’ve stuck to their word from the very beginning,” Campbell said.

Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or carlie.kollath@djournal.com.