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Toyota at Full Speed

By Sandra Knispel | Published 25 May 2012 08:19am | comments
Toyota workers assemble the Corolla at the Blue Springs plant in northeast Mississippi.

Now approaching full capacity, Toyota Motor Manufacturing is churning out roughly 600 Corollas each day at its new site in northeast Mississippi. MPB’s Sandra Knispel visited the Blue Springs plant yesterday and filed this report.

Entering Fort Knox might be easier than gaining access to Toyota. Groups of so-called team members, uniformly clad in red polo shirts, and contractors, mostly in blue, file through the turnstiles for a smoke break outside the perimeter of the plant. Inside where U.S. Congressman Alan Nunnelee just finished touring the brand-new manufacturing site for the Toyota Corolla, the media today only gets as far as the lobby. Nunnelee, meanwhile, is clearly smitten.

“Oh, Toyota has been a significant boost to the north Mississippi economy. First of all they are great jobs!”

Of course, the region has suffered tremendous job losses in manufacturing over the last decade, with many furniture producers shuttering their businesses. And that, the congressman says, did not just affect people’s wallets but also their psyche.

“In a tough down economy this has been a huge psychological boost to even people that may not feel directly touched by Toyota. It has been a psychological boost that has helped the entire region,” Nunnelee says.

To many Toyota is the savior, creating thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly through its 15 suppliers, and stimulating the local economy by putting money into the pockets of its workers.

But no need to apply now, says David Copenhaver, vice president for the Blue Springs operations.

“There’s a little over 2,000 people at the site out here. We have occasional attrition so we have to replenish that but yes, all of our main hiring has been completed.”

While Toyota has been expanding at other sites throughout North America, Copenhaver is tamping down expectations for Blue Springs.

"There are no plans currently in the pipeline. Our main job right now is to make sure that we produce the highest quality Corolla in the amount that’s needed."

And as if to underscore that point, sitting in the lobby is the first official “Made in Mississippi” Toyota Corolla, black and shiny. It’s one of the 150,000 cars to be built here every year.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Blue Springs.

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Toyota workers assemble the Corolla at the Blue Springs plant in northeast Mississippi.


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