By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
VERONA – In about six months, another 53,000 square feet will be added to Martinrea Automotive Structure’s plant in the Tupelo-Lee Industrial Park South.
And with it will come another 50 much-needed jobs.
Martinrea, the first Tier I supplier automotive supplier in Northeast Mississippi, announced Tuesday it was investing another $7.7 million for another crane bay and tool and die storage for new production capacity.
It’s the company’s fourth expansion in Lee County since 2003, when it opened as Thyssenkrupp Fabco.
“Martinrea has invested more than $55 million since then,” said Community Development Foundation Chairman Chris Rogers. “CDF greatly appreciates Martinrea’s confidence in our community and work force to continue to add jobs for our region.”
The unemployment rate in Northeast Mississippi was 11.5 percent in December. For 2009, the rate averaged 11.2 percent.
In Lee County, the December jobless rate was 10.3 percent.
Peter Chia, the general manager of Martinrea who’s been on the job for about two weeks after transferring from Texas, said the expansion work began last week.
“It should be finished in six months, so we’re looking at August,” he said.
The expansion will add about 50 jobs, bringing the total work force at the plant to about 200 employees.
The facility makes underbody stampings and assemblies for cars and trucks. Martinrea is a key supplier for Nissan and Honda, and Chia said the company expects to do work for Toyota.
The Japanese automaker has idled its plant in Blue Springs until the economy improves, but Chia said he thinks it will open “in two or three years.”
“We’re excited about the opportunities in the automotive industry in the Southern states and especially around the Tupelo region,” he added.
Chandler Russ of the Mississippi Development Authority said Martinrea’s expansion in Lee County “is really a testament to the region being able to compete and succeed in the global marketplace.”
And should the company snag a supplier deal with Toyota, Chia said it has ample room to expand.
“We’d like to be able to do that, absolutely,” he said.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org