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Toyota’s Economic Impact: Creating a Middle Class

By Sandra Knispel | Published 20 Nov 2011 07:13pm | comments
The owners of Gentry's Grocery and Grill in tiny Blue Springs say they have felt Toyota's economic impact for the last yaer and a half in increased sales.

With production now underway at Toyota’s new plant at Blue Springs, experts are trying to calculate the long-term social and economic effects of the Japanese automaker’s decision to come to Mississippi. MPB’s Sandra Knispel has more.

Vicki Gentry and her husband have owned Gentry’s Grocery & Grill in Blue Springs, across the highway from the new Toyota plant, for some 22 years. Blue Springs is tiny, with a population of just 165 people. But the sales increase during the last year and a half here at the grocery and gas station has been considerable.

“Probably about 40 percent or more. We’ve been very fortunate. I mean, we’ve met a lot of new people. We’re just trying to make everybody feel at home,” says Vicki Gentry.

Standing next to her at the cash register is her sister-in-law, Rita Gentry, who also serves as a Blue Springs alderman.

 “It’s had a great impact. It’s given a lot of people jobs when we desperately need them in this area. It’s kind of uplifted everybody a little bit, I think,” explains Rita Gentry.

“We’ve already seen a direct impact. [Also on] logistics people, landscape, you know service-type people," says David Rumbarger. "Of course, everybody who works also has doctors, they are taking prescriptions… they are doing all the things that you and I do: paying mortgages, paying off cars, send the kids to school. So it has a tremendous ripple effect through the economy and will for the next 40 to 60 years.”

According to David Rumbarger, president and CEO of the Tupelo-based Community Development Foundation, the area is getting a strong economic shot in the arm with eventually 2,000 jobs at Toyota directly, and already more than a thousand at its seven suppliers.

“The average wage in our community right now is just a little less than $30,000. If you look at the region it’s right about $25,000. So we hope to move up $10,000 to $15,000 over the next ten to 15 years,” Rumbarger adds.

Some experts predict that the trickle down effect of the Japanese automaker, including the need for more teachers, health care professionals, construction workers and government employees, could add up to 17,000 new jobs for northeast Mississippi over the next decades. With that, education levels are set to rise as a wider middle class begins to emerge.

Sandra Knispel, MPB News, Blue Springs.

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The owners of Gentry's Grocery and Grill in tiny Blue Springs say they have felt Toyota's economic impact for the last yaer and a half in increased sales.


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