Toyota Plant

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 19, 2008

Toyota supplier may mirror plant’s delay

By Billy Davis

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The announcement this week that Toyota will “indefinitely” delay the opening of its plant near Tupelo means a supplier that has committed to Batesville will likely delay its own opening.

Toyoda Gosei, a so-called tier one supplier, is renovating the former MOOG building with plans to employ 120 workers.

Toyoda’s original plan is to open in 2010 and hire its first workers next year, said Panola Partnership CEO Sonny Simmons.

“That’s one reason why we moved up the date of the job fair – to help them hire their first workers,” said Simmons, referring to the annual Governor’s Job Fair that moved from June to April 30.

Simmons said he has not been told of Toyoda’s plans by the company, but he expected its opening and production will coincide with Toyota’s future plans. 

Toyoda Gosei is one of several coveted tier one suppliers for Toyota, and the tier one companies are expected to have a “face to face” meeting with Toyota next week, Simmons said, citing sources at the state level. 

“My understanding is that all tier one plants will be postponed indefinitely like Toyota,” he added.

Citing the unsettling economy and slumping automobile sales, Toyota announced the second delay of the Blue Springs plant, where the Japanese automaker plans to produce the Prius hybrid.

 The company is investing $1.3 billion in the plant, and company officials said this week that construction of the plant, now at a cost of $300 million, would continue as planned.

In a Clarion-Ledger story of Toyota’s announcement, a spokesman for Toyoda Gosei said the company will be ready when Toyota begins its operation.

The sour economy will not affect a second Batesville industry, GE Aviation, said Justin Whitman, human resources director of the Batesville operation.

The company announced in past months that it plans to hire more workers in 2009, and that plan is still moving forward, Whitman said.

“Our business remains very strong, and we plan to hire in the first half of 2009 for the day shift,” Whitman said. He added that he did not know how many workers would be hired in 2009.

Even when the economic picture was dim in past months, Simmons assured local officials that Toyota suppliers and other industries were interested in locating to Panola County.

To help woo those new jobs, Panola County government and the City of Batesville are now investing in a new industrial park near the county airport.

Asked if Toyota’s plans affect suppliers who have committed to the industrial park, Simmons said instead that he saw a bright side to Toyota’s delay: the hurried pace to finish the project will now slow down.   

“I’ve advised the county to start construction by the spring or summer, and finish by the fall,” Simmons said.

When the economy eventually rebounds, Simmons predicts an “intense interest” in Panola County. And the new industrial park will be ready to welcome its first tenants, he said.