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Mississippi Reels in Toyota

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#1
Cianne

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http://clarionledger...02270398/0/NEWS

Toyota Motor Corp., the world's second-largest automaker, will build an $850 million-plus plant near Tupelo, creating up to 2,000 manufacturing jobs.

Gov. Haley Barbour will make the announcement this morning at Tupelo High School. Mississippi beat out Arkansas and Tennessee for the plant, which is expected to open in 2009.

It will be the state's second automotive plant. Nissan has a plant in Canton that opened in May 2003.

Toyota likely will build the Highlander - a mid-size crossover sport-utility vehicle - at an industrial site in Sherman, which is about 10 miles from downtown Tupelo. About 150,000 vehicles are expected to be produced annually at the plant.

Less than a month ago, the 1,700-acre industrial site, known as Wellspring, was in third place to sites in Marion, Ark., and Chattanooga, Tenn.

Mike Randle, publisher of Southern Business and Development, said Toyota had favored Marion heavily but returned to Mississippi the past couple weeks. He credited an alliance between Barbour and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley in which Barbour agreed to support a steel mill locating in Alabama if Mississippi got Toyota.

"It's great for Mississippi, but look at what it does for Alabama. They will have billion-dollar plants in or near every corner of the state and, if it comes through, a major steel mill," he said. "When you have two states offering incentives, initiatives and training, that's a whole lot better than one."

The Wellspring site is at the intersection of Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties. Seeing the South as the nation's automotive hotbed, the three pooled resources about four years ago to promote the site.

Automotive plants are Super Bowl trophies to economic developers. Besides plant employees, landing an automaker assures spin-offs - hundreds of construction jobs, automotive suppliers moving in and growth in support industries, from warehousing to plate-lunch spots.

It takes years for a region to reap the full benefits - after Nissan's four years in Canton, an appreciable number of small businesses have only begun to fill in. Given the current numbers, Nissan would remain considerably larger. It has a 400,000-vehicle annual capacity and employs more than 4,000.

Toyota North America has been the picture of growth the past few years. Its U.S. sales overtook Ford's last year and is threatening General Motors for No. 1. To support its sales growth, it needs new plants. The Tupelo facility will be the company's eighth in the U.S. and 14th in North America.

The Camry sedan has been the country's best-selling sedan for years, and the company is aiming at domestic pickups with its up-sized Tundra. It opened a truck plant in San Antonio, Texas, in November that has a capacity of 200,000 Tundras annually. The $1.28 billion plant went about $430 million over budget.

Labor for Mississippi's plant likely would be drawn from four states. With 36,000 residents, Tupelo is 90 miles south of Memphis and 45 miles from Oxford. Nissan says its centrally located Canton plant pulls employees from nearly all 82 Mississippi counties.

Earlier Monday, officials from both Toyota and Mississippi were largely mum about the plant.

Daniel Sieger, spokesman for Toyota's manufacturing division, said there was no official time frame on the announcement.

"We've been discussing for some time now whether to expand manufacturing in North America," he said. "I can't discuss where we're looking or discuss the attributes of specific sites."

Jennifer Spann, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Development Authority, said the agency has been courting Toyota. "There have been talks for months and months. But at this point, we haven't heard of any announcements," she said.

Barbour's spokesman, Pete Smith, had no comment.

From Tupelo City Hall to county supervisors' offices, local officials welcomed the prospects of a plant for a region socked by plans to close its largest employer and still reeling from furniture-industry losses.

Tupelo City Council President Dick Hill said the city watched five or six years ago as some of its manufacturing left for Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

And the latest economic shocker for the region came earlier this month when Sara Lee Corp. said it will close its Bryan Foods pork-products plant in West Point - 50 miles south of Tupelo - cutting all 1,200 jobs there.

Still ahead, Hill said, will be major infrastructure improvements to support the plant and its suppliers.
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#2
GeauxTo

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Sweet!  Good for Tupelo.

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#3
Cianne

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Ole Miss will also be starting an automotive engineering program which will be partnered with Toyota.
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#4
AUChamps

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You have I-22 to thank for that Toyota Plant.  The "REAL" Memphis-Atlanta Superhighway(via Birmingham) is gonna lead to a great economic boom for NW Alabama, Northern Mississippi and should aid in Birmingham and Memphis's growth.

"Paul Finebaum has done more to change the face of sports journalism in the state of Alabama than any other individual," Auburn athletic director David Housel has said.

From my Cold, Dead Hands......you damn, dirty apes!

#5
Noah

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Isn't Huntsville already the fastest growing city in the south?
After everything is said and done, more is said than done. - Noah

#6
crawfish

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Congrats to the people of Mississippi!  What a huge shot in the arm for the state of Mississippi.  You guys can win!  As usual, our beloved queen of Louisiana, Blanco, dropped the ball. . . again. I heard our presentation was elementary.  It's really too bad, but we get what we elect.

#7
Cianne

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It's still US-78 right now.  The best thing about it though is that they have already switched over the speed limit to the 70mph interstate standard.  Makes going to Memphis up Highway 7 to 78 much better from Oxford.
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#8
AUChamps

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Cianne said:

It's still US-78 right now.  The best thing about it though is that they have already switched over the speed limit to the 70mph interstate standard.  Makes going to Memphis up Highway 7 to 78 much better from Oxford.
Well, it's still US 78 until Alabama opens up the last couple of miles.  The Jasper to Graysville segment opens this summer or so and that means I-22 will be within 3-5 miles of I-65.

That 3-5 miles and the resulting Massive Intersection(it'll connect just north of the Flying J exit on I-65 if you guys know where that is) will be the most expensive highway project in Alabama ever.  Not only in the actual road and bridge building but also in the amount of rock blasting that will take place.

God willing, it'll be finished by 2011.

"Paul Finebaum has done more to change the face of sports journalism in the state of Alabama than any other individual," Auburn athletic director David Housel has said.

From my Cold, Dead Hands......you damn, dirty apes!