Major work at Toyota plant completed

By DENNIS SEID / NEMS Daily Journal

BLUE SPRINGS – A year from now, Corolla sedans should be rolling off the production line at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi.
The equipment to make them, however, is still a few weeks away from being installed.
But David Copenhaver, TMMMS vice president of administration, said major construction at the 2 million-square-foot plant is complete.
“We have a floor in the paint shop now,” he said.
When Toyota put the plant on hold in December 2008, the concrete floor had not been laid. Work resumed not long after Toyota’s announcement in June that it was restarting the project.
Copenhaver also said the pit in the body stamping has had to be altered for a different press, since the plant will be making the Corolla instead of the Prius.
“Equipment installation will start about mid-November,” he said. “First will be the stamping shop then the paint shop in December. We’re going to have a pretty big buildup in the facility and on the plant site as we get ready for equipment installation. At its peak, we’ll have about 1,400 to 1,500 people by March. So it will be a lot of ramp-up.”
Once the equipment is installed, “tryouts” will be done on the individual pieces, followed by full-system tests. Training of employees will then follow.
Other work at the TMMMS site can’t be seen from U.S. Highway 78, Copenhaver said. Work on installing tracks for the rail yard has intensified during the past two weeks. Work also has begun on finishing the marshaling yard, the area where completed vehicles will be parked, awaiting delivery via railcar or truck.
As for hiring at TMMMS, Copenhaver said 16 new employees have started, bringing to 96 the total number of workers at the plant. They’re the first batch of some 2,000 employees who will work at the plant once it hits full production.
“We’ll have a new group of employees start every other Monday from here on out, except during the holiday period,” he said.
Skilled and production hiring is a multistep process, and Copenhaver said “Day 1″ testing for those workers is being done every day at eight WIN Job Centers.
“The assessment center at Itawamba Community College-Belden is up and running for the skilled workers, and the first class for production begins Monday,” he added.
As for the number of applications submitted for TMMMS jobs, Copenhaver said Toyota is pleased with the progress so far, but said work remains in getting the word out that the plant is hiring.
“We just want to get as many people to know about it as we can,” he said. “I still have people surprised at what we’re doing out there.”
The production and maintenance jobs at TMMMS will pay between $15 and $25 an hour. The average manufacturing wage in the region pays about $13 an hour.
As of Monday, nearly 17,800 people had applied for the hourly positions at TMMMS, according to the Mississippi Department of Employment Security.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@djournal.com.