As it turned out, the site was just fine, and it’s now home to the $800 million Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi assembly plant.
And now Formby, 57, is the plant’s new vice president of administration. He replaces David Copenhaver, who is retiring.
“David has been a tremendous part of the community, and this is a great opportunity for me,” Formby said. “He’s passing the baton on. ... I’m blessed to be here.”
As vice president of administration, he’s responsible for all administrative functions of the plant, including human resources, general affairs, safety, accounting and finance and production control.
Formby has 30 years of experience with Toyota. The Birmingham native has spent the bulk of his career on the sales and logistics side, but has spent the past eight years in manufacturing.
He was most recently general manager of the production control division at Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America (TEMA) in Erlanger, Ky., and Toyota’s North American Production Control Center in Georgetown, Ky. The divisions provide regional support for Toyota’s engineering and manufacturing operations in North America.
Formby also was general manager at Toyota’s assembly plant in Princeton, Ind., where he headed new model preparation activities and production control functions.
His new job in Blue Springs gets him closer to Birmingham, where family gatherings every December draw a couple hundred people.
“I haven’t made many, but I will this year,” he said.
Formby’s early logistics and distribution experience with Toyota led him to California in 1991, when he was put in charge of the automaker’s port operations and vehicle logistics.
He left Toyota for a year to spend more time with his wife and three young children, but he rejoined the company to work in strategic planning. He also spent a couple of years with Toyota’s luxury-vehicle division, Lexus.
In 2003, he made the jump to the manufacturing side of Toyota.
“I’m going to ride into the sunset here (at Toyota Mississippi). I have another seven to 10 years, unless Toyota thinks differently,” he said with a laugh.
Like his predecessor, Formby will be the public face of the plant and will be active in the community.
“I’ll be picking up some of David’s assignments,” he said. “I want to be very visible and help the region grow and develop with Toyota. We’re getting better every day. We’re building the highest-selling volume vehicle in the world, and our future is bright.”