Toyota announces major Mississippi investments – The Commercial Appeal
Toyota Motor Corp. is making a major financial investment in its Blue Springs, Mississippi, manufacturing facility with the announcement of a $10 million visitor and interactive training center as well as $350,000 in donations for education and literacy.
State and company officials announced the investments during an event last week recognizing the 10th anniversary of the groundbreaking for the $1 billion plant in Union County, about 20 miles from Tupelo and about 75 miles southeast of Memphis.
Governor Phil Bryant said the announcement shows the strength of the relationship between the automaker and Mississippi.
“The addition of a visitor and interactive training center demonstrates Toyota’s commitment to growing the region’s economy through new investment while highlighting the plant and its skilled workforce,” Bryant said at the Thursday ceremony.
The entire region benefits from Toyota’s North Mississippi presence. Estimates are that roughly 8,000 workers in Tennessee supply plants make parts for Toyota vehicles assembled at Blue Springs as well as Toyota facilities in Georgetown, Kentucky; Princeton, Indiana; and San Antonio.
Plans call for a center at the Blue Springs site that offer public tours and, according to Toyota Mississippi’s Sean Suggs, “delve into the history of Toyota and our Blue Springs facility.” Construction of the 15,000-square-foot center is expected to begin in late 2018 with a mid-2019 completion.
Landing the 1,700-acre facility was a coup for the region, the work of a three-county alliance between Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties. The counties formed the PUL Alliance in 2001 with the goal of attracting a major automobile manufacturer to help diversify an economy weakened by the decline the furniture industry that had long provided jobs. Nissan’s Mississippi entrance with its plant in Canton, near Jackson, along with an explosion of auto industry growth in neighboring Tennessee and Alabama, provided the incentive to pursue an auto manufacturer.
Late this year, the Blue Springs plant expects to roll its millionth Corolla off the assembly line.
In addition to the visitor and training center, Toyota announced two donations of $175,000 each to foster family literacy and technical education in the state. The National Center for Families Learning will get one of the donations to establish a Toyota Family Learning program in Tupelo. Research shows the model being funded by the donation promotes two-generation literacy, providing workforce skills for the parents and improved educational outcomes for children.
The Toyota USA Foundation donated the other $175,000 to Mississippi BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) Robotics at Mississippi State University in Starkville. The program exposes middle and high school students to the engineering design process.