Toyota’s 2007 commitment to build an assembly plant at Blue Springs made Northeast Mississippians generally eager for every shred of information about construction, production, and jobs related to the $1.3 billion project on the Wellspring site in Union County.
The news from Toyota, shaped by a lingering worldwide recession and fluctuating gasoline prices, has not always been what the region expected. Delays and uncertainty about production are unsettling because they interrupt steady, unbroken forward movement – the momentum everyone wanted.
Toyota, however, has not stopped and it has not wavered in its statements about long-term commitment to the plant, even when it changed from planned SUV production to the Prius hybrid, and then when it indefinitely delayed Prius production to weather economic storms.
No one knows the innermost counsel of Toyota and other mega-industries like it, but the on-site signs and affirmations from officials point to continuing commitment.
The initial component of Toyota’s work force is at the plant. It has not been transferred.
Plans geared toward meeting the needs of Toyota’s influence in the jobs market is moving ahead in community colleges and at the University of Mississippi, which have special missions related to the Toyota investment.
The state’s economic prosperity apparatus (including Gov. Barbour and the Mississippi Development Authority) remains four-square in its optimism about Toyota’s future in Mississippi.
A delay is far from an abandonment.
When an industry walks away from a site or goes belly up it’s not the same as continuing planning for production that has only been pushed back.
In parallel, work for other kinds of economic development with different manufacturers and investors has not slowed down.
Even sizable numbers of jobs disappear in industries undergoing significant geographic realignment, new jobs announcements and new investment have continued in the region.
It would be foolish to be a Pollyanna about economic realities, but it would be equally destructive to run and hide when opportunities await development.
Developers and community leaders know that in times of stress any community’s strong, existing businesses are the source of about 70 percent to 80 percent of all new jobs.
The American Economic Development Council reports in a study that “a well-planned existing business development program is therefore crucial to a community’s economic development.”
Regional developers and communities can never take existing business for granted because those jobs are on the ground in production, and their success is one of the reasons new industries like Toyota became interested in the region in the first place.
NEMS Daily Journal