Toyota Motor Corp.'s $1.3 billion investment to build a new assembly plant near Tupelo, Miss., will include in-house plastics capabilities, and also will help kick-start additional plastics processing in the region.
The Japanese automaker announced Feb. 27 it will build its newest assembly plant in Blue Springs, Miss., to make as many as 150,000 of its Highlander sport utility vehicles annually.
The investment marks the second auto assembly plant in Mississippi, and will provide a boost to a state that is continuing to mark economic losses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The plan follows the auto industry's trend of building new North American facilities in the South.
The announcement comes less than a year after Toyota City, Japan-based Toyota opened a truck assembly plant in Georgetown, Texas, which prompted more than $150 million worth of separate investments by suppliers for that facility.
Toyota has not specified what kind of plastics operations it will have in Blue Springs, but the company historically does some of its own injection molding for key interior and exterior parts such as instrument panels and bumper fascia.
The assembly plant will employ 2,000 - not including the jobs expected from suppliers - and is to begin production by 2010.
The regional PUL Alliance, an economic development group, estimates Toyota's jobs could create as many as 10,000 more positions in both direct supplier work and indirect support work.
The Tupelo area is new to the auto industry, but is home to some plastics manufacturing and has received notice for its ability to attract and keep manufacturers. The region is home to a variety of extruders and film and bag makers, including Ply Gem Industries Inc., MW Manufacturers Inc. and Heritage Plastics Inc.
Spartech Corp. injection molds wheels for lawn equipment in Tupelo, while Flexible Foam Products Inc. makes urethane foam used in the region's traditional furniture industry.
The announcement may be a reversal of fortune for the state, which in December heard it would lose Oreck Corp.'s 500-employee plant in Long Beach. The company, like others in southern Mississippi, noted it was suffering from continued worker shortages and increased costs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.