Opinion – 3/2/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 2, 2007

The Panolian: OPINIONS

 From the 03/02/07 issue of The Panolian        

History-making Toyota plans can include Panola

The announcement this week that Toyota will build its eighth U.S. assembly plant in North Mississippi is welcomed news to the Tupelo region as well as the state of Mississippi.

Here in Panola County, Toyota’s choice of Mississippi over sites in Arkansas and Tennessee shouldn’t come as a surprise. In 2003, the Japanese automaker took a serious look at acreage sitting right in our own backyard, a mega-site located near Como.

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Toyota’s pick of Tupelo over the Como site stings a bit, especially since we are better prepared today for a mega-industry than we were three years ago. But our community should be grateful that the Japanese automaker chose our neighbor’s "backyard" rather than one in Arkansas or Tennessee.

Why? An automotive plant brings with it spin-offs that supply the plant with needed materials. The suppliers are known by their tier designations, such as "tier one" and "tier two," and Panola County is poised to welcome one or more of these to our community.

The outsourcing of jobs overseas has devastated our state over the past decade. Mississippi’s towns and industrial parks were often the final domestic destination of low-paying, low-skilled jobs. Those industries discovered a cheap, hardworking labor force here at home before they discovered even cheaper labor overseas.

In Northeast Mississippi and here at home, communities small and great have endured that "giant sucking sound," former presidential candidate Ross Perot’s description of American jobs leaving our country.

In his speech Tuesday announcing the coming auto plant, Gov. Haley Barbour said Toyota’s choice of Mississippi "answers the prayers" of community leaders "who realized our furniture industry in this area employs fewer people today than ten years ago."

A decade ago, who could have imagined that the Japanese auto industry would see a bright future in Mississippi, where it would discover a hardworking, trainable workforce?

Yet here we are. The Southeast has caught the eye of the automotive industry, and Mississippi can boast that Nissan has built the country’s largest from-the-ground-up auto assembly plant here, and now the world’s top Japanese automaker will follow its competitor by building a $1.3 billion assembly plant in the Magnolia state.

Mark this event in your diary, friends, because history is being made in Mississippi.

With smart planning and forward-thinking by our community leaders, Panola County can play a part of history in the making.


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