TOYOTA: Moving forward again

5:56 p.m.: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs.
51 percent of the voters in our poll say they plan to apply for a job with Toyota or one of the suppliers. Click here to vote on the poll.

Want to work for Toyota? Click here for more information at the Biz Buzz blog.

5:55 p.m.: Here’s a story from The Associated Press on the day at Blue Springs …

SHELIA BYRD/The Associated Press

BLUE SPRINGS — Gov. Haley Barbour says he never lost faith that Toyota would ultimately build cars in Mississippi, as it promised three years ago.

Still, the phone call from Toyota executives at 6 a.m. Thursday informing him the company’s board had voted to open the Blue Springs plant “was the best wake-up call I ever had.”

“It’s a great day for everybody in Mississippi,” Barbour said during a celebration hosted by Toyota at the plant site in Blue Springs, near Tupelo.

Toyota first announced in 2007 that it planned to build at the 1,700-acre site, with production scheduled to begin in 2010. A stagnant global economy postponed the work.

On Thursday, Toyota said it will build Corolla compact cars at its northeast Mississippi plant. The first car is expected to come off the assembly line in autumn 2011.

During a celebration sponsored by the automaker, some 500 people sat on white plastic chairs in the plant’s vehicle assembly shop, drinking lemonade and eating red and white cookies. Balloons of the same colors hung from rafters.

Two Corollas were parked in front of the stage, where Barbour was joined by Yoshimi Inaba, president and chief operating officer of Toyota North America; U.S. Rep. Travis Childers, D-Miss.; and other Toyota executives.

Barbour said when he first got word of the delay in 2008, “we were disappointed, but we also understood it was a good business decision. We expect Toyota to be here the next 50 to 75 years.”

Barbour, during an earlier teleconference, said equipment was being moved into the plant Thursday and hiring would begin soon.

The crowd cheered whenever Barbour or Toyota executives spoke during the celebration.

“We have been waiting and waiting,” said Tupelo Councilwoman Nettie Davis. “I think the whole community is excited. It’s been such a mystery. It’s going to make the area really grow.”

Inaba said Mississippi was selected because it was centrally located to suppliers. Toyota officials also cited the skilled work force in an region that was once a strong furniture-making market.

Inaba said more than 30 million Corollas have been sold worldwide since the vehicle was introduced in 1966. He said the work force in north Mississippi shared similar attributes of the car: strength, dependability and reliability.

Bill Nichols, 43, is among the employees who have already been hired at the plant. Nichols, who works in facilities maintenance, said he never doubted the plant would open.

“Toyota always said they never lay off and they’re committed to their employees,” Nichols said. He said the news that the plant will open “was a relief.”

Mississippi’s unemployment rate was 10.7 percent in April, the most recent figure available. The rates in the three-county area around the plant are all slightly higher — Union at 11.1 percent, Lee at 11.2 percent and Pontotoc at 11.4 percent.

David Copenhaver, the Toyota vice president in charge of the Blue Springs facility, said hiring will begin in August or September for an estimated 2,000 positions.

Toyota executives believe suppliers and vendors will create an additional 2,000 jobs.

The plant will produce about 150,000 cars annually.

The state committed $294 million to the project to assist with site preparation, infrastructure and training.

“The good news today is we are adding 2,000 new American jobs. It is good for Mississippi and better for us,” said Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales USA.

Union County Supervisor Benny Rakestraw, among several hundred at the celebration, said the plant is going to help the local economic in his county, which lost a furniture plant last week.

“This means everything. It’s going to help the economy come back. It is just amazing,” Rakestraw said.

Jim Wiseman, vice president for corporate affairs at Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, said the recession in the auto industry forced Toyota to wait for markets to stabilize in North America before turning again to the plant in Mississippi.

“We’ve kept our commitment to that plant,” said Wiseman.

Wiseman said the work already done at the site would allow Toyota to start up quickly and “return Corolla production to the U.S. very quickly.”

“We appreciate the patience … the entire state has shown,” he said.

3:56 p.m.: Adding slideshow of photos from Daily Journal chief photographer Thomas Wells. Click the view slideshow link below the photo on the left.

3:21 p.m.: Lots of excitement about Toyota. We’re told 500 people invited to the Celebration in Blue Springs and 900 showed up.

2:23 p.m.: On the news that Toyota will resume operations in Mississippi, U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) issued the following statement: “This is wonderful news for Mississippi and is an optimistic sign for the economy as a whole. We have been anxiously waiting for this day since Toyota selected Blue Springs. The Toyota Corolla is the third bestselling car in America. This means greater job security for the 2000 Mississippians who will soon be hired. I am thankful to Toyota for keeping its promise to us.”

2:15 p.m.: State Treasurer Tate Reeves statement: “Toyota’s announcement today of their plan to resume operations in Blue Springs is great news for Mississippi. We are fortunate to have Toyota as a strong partner as we continue to work to improve and diversify our economy. Toyota’s decision in this economic environment signifies the strength of our workforce and the great potential for future economic growth in our state.”

2:11 p.m.: Celebration over. Lots of cheering.

2:09 p.m.: St. Angelo: I’d like to thank the good people of MS throughout the entire state for your patience.Thank suppliers for your flexibility.

2:06 p.m.: St. Angelo: Toyota Kentucky plant will be mother plant for this plant. No other plant has won as many quality awards as the Kentucky plant.

2:05 p.m.: St. Angelo: New employees will shop, eat and, oh yeah, visit the Elvis birthplace.

2:04 p.m.: St. Angelo: If you think about this project it took a lot of teamwork to happen.

2:01 p.m.: Final speaker is Steve St. Angelo, vice president of manufacturing at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky. It reminds me of graduation day a day of accomplishment and pride. I sense that family today.

2 p.m.: Inaba: We are delighted that Toyota Mississippi is moving forward again.

1:57 p.m.: Inaba: It is estimated Toyota sells one new Corolla every 40 seconds.

1:56 p.m.: Yoshimi Inaba, president and COO of Toyota Motor North America, says it is a great day for Mississippi and Toyota. Starting with Corolla will let Mississippi start much faster.

1:51 p.m.: Childers: Randy Kelley, David Rumbarger – those two men worked tirelessly. This state & this region owe you a tremendous amount of gratitude.

1:50 p.m.: Childers: Make no mistake we’re open for business. And we’re doing business right here in Blue Springs. We’re making Toyota Corollas.

1:49 p.m.: Travis Childers: This is absolutely a red-letter day for the First Congressional District.

1:48 p.m.: U.S. Congressman Travis Childers speaking.

1:43 p.m.: “It’s a great day for everybody in Mississippi,” Barbour said. “Be proud. This is a great day.”

1:43 p.m. – Barbour: Toyota bent over backwards to protect us from the decision that they had to make. **crowd applause**

1:41 p.m. – Barbour says suppliers will employ as many or more than Toyota.

1:38 p.m. – Barbour said there will be a special announcement in a few weeks about hiring. “Be listening for that,” Barbour said.

1:37 p.m. – First speaker is Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour. “This was the best wake up call I’ve hard,” Barbour said of hearing Mississippi plant would start again. Call came before 6 a.m.

1:36 p.m. – Ballons lowered and banner is “Toyota Mississippi – Moving Forward Again.” Crowd cheering.

1:33 p.m. – David Copenhaver, TMMMS’ vice president of administration, said it wasn’t a matter of if, but when. He is introducing PUL Alliance members.

1:32 p.m. Introducing people to a large crowd.

1:30 p.m. – Celebration has started. No signal so no live blogging. We’ll post some updates from Carlie Kollath Tweets here. Thanks for joining us.

11:55 a.m. – Daily Journal reporter Emily Le Coz reports that Toyota is not yet ready to hire.

TUPELO – Job seekers must wait a little longer before applying for one of Toyota’s anticipated 2,000 positions at Blue Springs.
Despite this week’s announcement that the auto maker will resume construction of its Northeast Mississippi manufacturing plant, there’s no word yet on when Toyota will start accepting applications.
“We’re working with the WIN centers, and very shortly we will be very public about when that system will be up and running,” said Barbara McDaniel, manager of government relations and corporate affairs for Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America.
As of Thursday morning, most WIN Job Centers in the region hadn’t been notified of Toyota’s hiring plans.
Before the plant’s construction halted in December 2008 amid an economic downturn, WIN was accepting applications online and in person. But that process stopped when Toyota put its project on hold.
On Wednesday, Toyota Mississippi’s vice president of administration, David Copenhaver, told the Daily Journal that hiring would start in the fall. But the application process likely will begin sooner than that.

11:30 a.m. – Do you have questions about today’s announcement? Post them below in the comments and we’ll try to answer them.

11:28 a.m. – What others are saying about the announcement? Here is a quick look …

Click here for Wall Street Journal Story – Toyota Aims to Open U.S. Plant in 2011

Click here for USA Today story – Toyota hiring 2,000 as work resumes on Blue Springs, Miss., plant

Click here for The New York Times story – Toyota to Resume Construction of Mississippi Plant

11:11 a.m. – Questions remain for Toyota supplier

From the Biz Buzz blog – A Toyota supplier in NEMS tells us that just because Toyota has decided to go forward with its main plant, it doesn’t mean that everything is A-OK for its suppliers, who were selected for the Highlander and then the Prius.

Todd Sousa, a senior manager at Toyota Boshoku, tells us that Toyota has not made its sourcing decisions yet for the Corolla, which will be built in Blue Springs starting next year.

Boshoku, which has a facility in the Dorsey community in Itawamba County, is “anxiously awaiting” any decision, Sousa said. He has been told that the decision will be made in August or September.

“Our facility is there and we’re ready to supply Toyota when needed,” he said.

Click here for more at the Biz Buzz blog.

11:00 a.m. – Looking for business news and more on Toyota? Follow business reporter Carlie Kollath on Twitter. Click here to follow Carlie.

10:54 a.m. – Don’t forget Carlie Kollath will be blogging live from the celebration at 1:30 p.m. Photographer Thomas Well is at the Blue Springs scene and says a large crowd is expected.

10:51 a.m. – Looking for more information on the Corolla. Click here for more on the car.

10:21 a.m. – From Biz Buzz …

Want to work for Toyota?

The main Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi plant will have 2,000 when it is ramped up. We’re told the company will begin hiring this fall. No word yet how Toyota will go about getting those applications.

Click here for more information on Biz Buzz blog.

9:33 a.m. – If you are not following Dennis Seid on Twitter first shame on you and today is a great day to start. Click here to follow @dennisseid for updates. Seriously, here is some good stuff from Dennis off Twitter …

David Magee, “How Toyota Became No. 1″ author: Corolla “is at the very center for Toyota” and Co. has moved “smartly” back to its core.

Expected Toyota officials today at celebration: Yoshimi Inaba, Jim Lentz, Ray Tanguay, Steve St. Angelo. All heavy-hitters.

9:10 a.m. – Toyota President Akio Toyoda talks about the announcement in Associated Press story …

Toyota decides to restart Mississippi auto plant

TOKYO — Toyota will restart the delayed construction of its Mississippi plant, which will provide 2,000 jobs and be up and running by the fall of next year, the Japanese automaker said Thursday.

Toyota Motor Corp.’s auto plant in Blue Springs, Miss., was initially planned to be completed by 2010, but building was suspended after the U.S. economy nose-dived in late 2008.

The Mississippi plant will make 150,000 Corolla compact cars a year, a change of plans from the initial plan to make the Prius hybrid there, Toyota said.

Toyota President Akio Toyoda said he was happy to make the announcement, and expressed appreciation for the understanding on the delay shown by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

“We aim to give our full effort to manufacturing vehicles that can bring joy and to contribute to the region’s economy and society,” he said in a statement.

Toyota, the world’s No. 1 automaker, had been on an expansion track until sales tanked from the financial crisis.

The latest plan signals that Toyota is again ready to tackle a growth strategy, after managing to return to the black for the fiscal year ended March 31. The Japanese automaker had racked up its worst loss in its history the previous fiscal year.

Toyota, which makes the Prius hybrid and Lexus luxury model, has also been plagued by a massive quality crisis, resulting in the recall of 9 million vehicles around the world since October, mainly in the U.S. for problems such as gas pedal defects and braking software glitches.

Toyota had said it is stalling plans on the Mississippi plant until it feels demand is recovering.

9:08 a.m. – AP reports Gov. Barbour’s statement. Full text is below …
Miss. governor praises Toyota decision

BLUE SPRINGS — Toyota will build Corolla compact cars at its plant in Blue Springs in northeast Mississippi.

The announcement came Thursday from Toyota in Tokyo and from Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Barbour, in a statement, says Toyota was fulfilling a promise to resume construction on the plant. He said Mississippians “had good reason to keep our faith in them.”

Toyota officials planned a celebration later Thursday at the plant site.

Toyota plans to begin production at the Blue Springs facility in the fall of 2011. When complete, the facility will employ approximately 2,000 individuals.

Toyota first announced its plans to build at the 1,700-acre site in Blue Springs, near Tupelo, Miss., in 2007 with production to begin in 2010. Economic conditions postponed the work.

The state committed $294 million to the project to assist with site preparation, infrastructure and training.

8:42 a.m. – From Daily Journal Business Editor Dennis Seid on Northeast Mississippi’s new vehicle …

Corolla, the world’s best selling car

The Corolla, which comes from Latin for “small crown,” was first introduced in Japan in 1966. It was first sold in the U.S. two years later.
The compact car is Toyota Motor Corp.’s second-oldest nameplate behind the Land Cruiser, and it was Toyota’s first vehicle to be built in the U.S.
In 1997, the Corolla officially became the best-selling car in the world. It was the first vehicle to reach 30 million in sales and Toyota has sold some 33 million of them worldwide.
The Corolla is manufactured in Japan, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom (Derbyshire, England), Vietnam and Venezuela.
Production in the U.S. ended April 1, 2010 in the U.S. in Fremont, Calif., at the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant, which Toyota co-owned with GM.
After GM filed for bankruptcy protection last year, it pulled out of its joint venture with Toyota, which said it could not run the plant by itself.
Production of the Corolla from NUMMI has been shifted temporarily to Toyota’s plant in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada began production of the Corolla in November 1988 and has produced more than 2.5 million of the Corollas.
The current 10th-generation Corolla was introduced in 2008.

Here are what several people have said about today’s announcement:

Gov. Haley Barbour
Governor Haley Barbour announced today that Toyota Motor Corporation is resuming preparations to begin production at its north Mississippi plant next year.

The company plans to produce the Toyota Corolla, the best-selling car of all time, at the Blue Springs plant.

“Toyota is moving forward to equip and begin production at its Mississippi plant. We’re delighted, but not surprised,” Governor

Barbour said. “We’ve had good reason to keep our faith in them. Through a global economic crisis, Toyota kept its financial commitments to the state and to local schools, proving they are not just the world’s premier automaker but a valuable community partner as well. We eagerly look forward to the opening of the Blue Springs plant in 2011 and are proud that the Toyota Corolla, one of the best-selling vehicles of all time, will be manufactured here in Mississippi.”

“We sincerely appreciate the patience and understanding shown by Governor Barbour and the people of Mississippi,” said Yoshimi Inaba,

president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America. “With the economic downturn, we had a commitment to our team members and communities worldwide to make sure all of our existing plants were stable. With the return of stability to our existing operations in North America, it is time to fulfill Toyota’s promise in

Mississippi.”

Toyota plans to begin production at the Blue Springs facility in the fall of 2011. When complete, the facility will employ approximately 2,000 individuals.

Wayne Stokes, president of the Pontotoc County Board of Supervisors and chairman of the PUL Alliance, the regional economic development alliance in northeast Mississippi, said, “The PUL Alliance never lost faith in Toyota. Now,with production of the popular Corolla slated for the plant and hiring beginning in the fall, it makes us all truly appreciate the impact these jobs will have on our regional economy.”

Toyota first announced its plans to build its 10th U.S. production facility at the 1,700-acre site in Blue Springs, near Tupelo, Miss., in February 2007 with production to begin in 2010. The State of Mississippi committed approximately $294 million to the project to assist with site preparation, infrastructure and training.

“Today’s announcement is a validation of our strong partnership with Toyota, and we look forward to the 2,000 jobs the Blue Springs

plant will create, as well as a like or greater number of supplier jobs,” said Gray Swoope, executive director of the Mississippi
Development Authority.

Toyota broke ground on the facility in April 2007 and completed building construction in the spring of 2009. In December 2008, company officials announced a delay in their plans to begin production at the facility but stated their clear intent to move forward with the plant when market conditions improved.

Toyota continued to pay more than $10 million on state-issued bonds to fund road construction and extend water and sewer systems to the site. The corporation also made its initial annual $5 million payment to the Tupelo-based CREATE Foundation for local education, which was the first payment in a 10-year commitment to the organization.

PUL Alliance
The PUL Alliance and elected officials of Northeast Mississippi are elated that Toyota has set a date for start of production to build the Corolla at their eighth North American assembly plant on the Wellspring Project site. This announcement is welcome news to all involved in the recruitment of Toyota,and even more importantly,it is great news to the hard working people of Northeast Mississippi.

“The PUL Alliance (the Regional Economic Development in Northeast Mississippi) never lost faith in Toyota. We always said it was not a matter of if, but when,” said Wayne Stokes, president of the Pontotoc County Board of Supervisors and PUL Alliance chairman. “During this period the company continued to fulfill its commitments, and we knew when the time was right they would resume the schedule. Working on the Wellspring Project since 2001, the counties have experienced waiting, and sometimes the best rewards come after a long wait. Now with the popular Corolla production, and hiring beginning in the fall, it makes us all truly appreciate the impact these jobs will have for our local economy. The PUL Alliance never stopped working on the project, and we are ready to move forward with the company and the State.”

The magnitude of Toyota’s decision to build the Corolla, the best-selling car of all time, at its Blue Springs location will produce an economic impact that is unprecedented in this region. Toyota’s creation of 2,000 stable, well-paying jobs will be a catalyst for further job creation in the region. As automotive suppliers who have already located in the area restart their operations and other suppliers seek to move operations to Northeast Mississippi, the potential for an additional 5,000 jobs is imminent.

“We never lost confidence in this fine company,” said Danny Jordan, Union County Supervisor president. “The timing for the company to open this state-of-the-art facility and the flexibility of the communities involved signifies a true partnership between Toyota and the PUL Alliance.”

Since its formation in September 2001, the PUL Alliance partnership marketed the Wellspring Project Site that Toyota now calls home. In the interim, PUL Alliance officials have utilized the time to continue fostering the partnership and ensure that when Toyota was ready to manufacture automobiles, that all of their commitments would be met and that the workforce would be ready to meet the needs of Toyota and its suppliers.

“On behalf of the people of Northeast Mississippi, we thank you for your continued investment in our community. Completion of the project creates a bright future for our region, along with the existing manufacturers in the area. This announcement creates the potential to excel job creation in the region and will speed economic recovery,” said Darrell Rankin, president of the Lee County Board of Supervisors.

As part of the 2007 announcement that Toyota would build an automotive manufacturing facility at the Wellspring Project site, the company also revealed that it would donate $50 million, $5 million a year for 10 years, to education in the PUL counties. After two years of study by an appointed Toyota Education Endowment Fund Committee, plans have been announced to build the Center for Professional Futures, an educational facility that will expose students in the eight school districts in Pontotoc, Union, and Lee Counties to professional careers through high performance teaching and a modern learning environment.

“Toyota staunchly kept their commitments to the PUL Alliance counties, especially through the Toyota Education Endowment Fund,” said David Rumbarger, president and CEO of the Community Development Foundation, the marketing agency for the PUL Alliance, and Lee County appointee to the Education Endowment Committee. “Through the education endowment, Toyota is already affecting hundreds of school children in the Northeast Mississippi community and will continue to do so through the new high school – Center for Professional Futures.”

“We welcome the opportunity to continue our partnership with the company and its suppliers, and we are grateful for the support of the agencies that were involved as Toyota is moving forward again,” said Randy Kelley, executive director of Three Rivers Planning and Development District, the administrative agency for the PUL Alliance. “The Alliance never stopped managing and providing leadership to complete the necessary utilities during this interim time. Saying that we are elated is an understatement. We’re fired up and ready to help them make cars in Blue Springs!”

Toyota Press release
Toyota sets start-up date for Mississippi plant

New plant to build Corolla beginning in Fall 2011

BLUE SPRINGS – Toyota is resuming construction of its Mississippi plant, which will soon hire 2,000 team members and build the Corolla compact sedan beginning in the fall of 2011.

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour plans to visit Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi (TMMMS) today to meet with Northeast Mississippi community leaders and Toyota officials.

This decision to begin production with Corolla enables TMMMS to open as quickly as possible. Also, by beginning production with Corolla, nearly all Corolla for this market will be built in North America. Some of the Corolla for North America have been built in Japan since April.

“Toyota appreciates the patience of Gov. Barbour and all Mississippians, but we first needed to fully utilize our existing facilities as the economy slowed. Now it’s time to fulfill Toyota’s promise in Mississippi,” said Yoshimi Inaba, president and chief operating officer of Toyota Motor North America. “Toyota remains committed to making vehicles where we sell them and to maintaining a substantial manufacturing presence in North America.”

The TMMMS building is essentially complete. Most of the remaining work involves the installation of equipment. The administration office is already occupied by about 60 team members. Details about the hiring process will be divulged later this summer.

8:40 a.m. – It’s an “Oh what a feeling” kind of day in Northeast Mississippi. Or as Neal McCoy @cnealmccoy said on Twitter this morning it’s “Toyota Thursday.” We had the announcement early this morning a few hours ago and we’ll take you throughout the day.
Dennis Seid and Carlie Kollath have all the Buzz in the Biz Buzz blog.

Click here for more at the Biz Buzz blog. Carlie will be blogging the 1:30 p.m. celebration live at Biz Buzz.

Stay here today for updates all day on Toyota’s announcement and remember you’ll want a keepsake of this special day so pick up Friday’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper with more coverage of this big day in our region. Got a question on the big day? Ask and we’ll try to answer it. Thanks for joining us.

NEMS Daily Journal