The auto industry is setting up shop in Texas, bringing opportunities for molders moving there to supply a new $850 million assembly plant, and jobs to workers who had seen their electronics industry work moving overseas.
Injection molder Tasus Corp. already is ramping up production at its new Georgetown, Texas, plant - nearly a year before Toyota Motor Corp. begins full production at its San Antonio plant.
``I think that having the organization established and well underfoot and trained in all areas before the launch of the new [Toyota] operation is important,'' said President Melanie Hart in an Aug. 17 telephone interview.
The site will begin by making audio component parts for other customers in the region, freeing up space at Tasus' headquarters operation in Bloomington, Ind. It eventually will make functional parts similar to those produced in Indiana, Hart said.
The Bloomington site already was operating at capacity when Toyota picked San Antonio for a new plant to make its Tundra pickup trucks. That helped Tasus decide to look to the Southwest for expansion opportunities.
Eighteen different suppliers will invest a total of $150 million for their operations at a Toyota supplier park, among them molders Reyes Automotive Group and Avanzar Interior Technologies.
Toyoda Gosei Co. Ltd.'s North American operation will spend $25 million on its injection molding plant in San Antonio making a variety of interior parts, including the Tundra's center console, said spokesman Chad Bamberg. It will house 158 employees, 35 presses of 20-1,800 tons and a paint line.
``There are a lot of things under development there,'' he said.
The central Texas auto business boom differs from previous investments in the region that had touted less-expensive production in Mexico and Texas border towns. Toyota executives said they picked San Antonio because the firm wanted to make pickups in a place where pickups are a popular consumer choice.
And while Tasus may plan to start its expansion to the Southwest with its current production lineup, it also plans to use its Texas plant to investigate opportunities in blow molding and in-mold decorating, Hart said.
``We asked customers what they needed in the Southwest, what they weren't finding,'' she said.
The company is starting small for now, with four Nissei presses ranging from 310-720 tons and 16 employees in the 110,000-square-foot facility, but Hart said she expects it to have at least 100 employees within five years.
``Just based on customer interest, we may be building this facility up even faster than we'd first considered,'' she said.
Tasus is not expecting problems finding qualified workers. It and other auto suppliers are moving into a region of experienced plastics processors that previously molded parts for the electronics industry, only to see those jobs move overseas, Hart said.
``We have a wonderful, wonderful choice of employees. These are people who have been underemployed and they're ready to go.''