West Point Cheers YokohamaBy Jeffrey Hess | Published 29 Apr 2013 09:33pm |
A northeast Mississippi town is reacting with joy to the announcement of a new tire factory. MPB’s Jeffrey Hess reports residents of West Point are welcoming the Yokohama Tire Corporation with open arms.
As Hikomitsu Noji, the company’s CEO, takes the stage a packed theater erupts in cheers.
On Monday, Yokohama Tire Corporation as well as state and local officials finalized a deal to bring a new tire factory to the area.
Noji says Yokohama needed a US based factory to supply a growing demand for tires.
“We have a big demand. We cannot supply enough. So that is the reason we need to make the tires here and deliver to the US. Made in the US. Delivered to the US. (what kind of tires are you going to make?). Tires for trucks and buses,” Noji said.
The company plans to break ground on the first phase of the factory in June.
The initial phase is expected to create 500 jobs before eventually growing to 2-thousand jobs.
Many residents of the town attended the announcement, including Scott Reed who runs a flower shop in downtown West Point called ‘Petal pushers’.
“I am so excited. It is something we have been looking for. Something that we have been needing. It is kind of a shot in the arm we needed as a town and I just look forward to everything it is going to do for us,” Reed said.
Clay County has the highest unemployment rate in the state and has struggled with dismal economic prospects ever since a food factory closed roughly 7 years ago.
The ghost of that factory was brought up several times, but West Point Resident Donna Ross says the experience shows how the town stuck together.
“This community has held together and stuck together and gone forward in trying to make it as marketable as possible to a new employer and I think that has been done,” Ross said.
The factory will produce tires for trucks and commercial vehicles, but for residents of the town it is also producing hope.
Central Middle School principal John Harper brought a group of students to the signing ceremony for the company.
“Our children here were talking about it. 10 and 11 years old and they are talking about job creation and there is a future. Whereas, six-seven years ago, it started fading out and Bryan Foods started leaving, it is disheartening to the students. It is an inspiration and gives a purpose back into education in some respects,” Harper said.
The factory is expected to contribute 900-thousand dollars to the school system every year.
West Point Mayor Scott Ross says the food factory closure an economic ‘gut punch’.
“We will never forget it. And we make a commitment today to the Yokohama Corporation that we will always be your partners and we don’t look at you as anything other than a partner and a friend,” Scott said.
Ross believes the new factory could be one of the most important days in town history.
West Point resident Pat Pey says it is reviving her town long downtrodden economic outlook….
“That is why it is so good for this town. We need the people. We need the industry. It is just going to be a big boom for West Point,” Pey said.
The first set of tires could be rolling off the line by late 2015.
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