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Yokohama Breaks Ground on Tire Plant in West Point

By Sandra Knispel | Published 24 Sep 2013 09:16am | comments
Governor Bryant and company officials of Yokohama Tire Manufacturing shovel dirt at the company's groundbreaking ceremony in West Point.

WEST POINT, Miss. -- Construction is soon to begin on a million square foot tire factory in West Point in northeast Mississippi. The Japanese tire maker Yokohama held its groundbreaking ceremony there yesterday, promising up to 2,000 jobs over the next decade, which are badly needed after a decade of plant closures and job losses in the region.

About two dozen politicians, economic developers, and company officials lined up in double row to shovel dirt in choreographed unison. At the groundbreaking ceremony in West Point yesterday morning, under a spotless blue sky, Governor Phil Bryant sounded downright euphoric: ”Very proud to be Governor of people in this state whose workforce is so strong that they bring this type of international business to Mississippi.”

Tadaharu Yamamoto, picking his words carefully in English, the newly minted president of Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi, promised the several hundred guests at the ceremony good stewardship of resources, the environment and his future workforce.

“I want to be a good citizen here," Yamamoto said. "We need to contribute for the local community, especially for the job and job satisfaction for this area.”

After a decade of job losses, Clay Countyhas been struggling with one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, hovering above 18 percent. But yesterday clearly was a good day for Mayor Robbie Robinson, who told the crowd that he felt like a kid on Christmas morning who had just iunwrapped a much longed-for gift.

“Though there was a lot of despair we never gave up hope. And I just can’t tell you – this is the biggest event that’s happened in the history of our community that I can recall.”

And while Yokohama won’t start producing tires here for another two years, jobs will start rolling into town soon, said Joe Max Higgins, CEO of the Golden Triangle Development Link, the economic development organization for Clay, Lowndes and Oktibbeha counties that was instrumental in attracting the Japanese company.

“Probably somewhere around 1,200 construction workers will be on this site and working for a year and a half, two years. So there’s going to be a lot of local revenue - sales tax revenue - generated with that influx of new people coming in.”

Already dirt work is under way at the 570-acre site. The initial building will be about a million square feet and about 500 people will work there with a capital investment of about $300 mio. "The project is scheduled to have a second, third and fourth phase. And if those phases are built, which we expect that they will be, the building will grow to about 5 million sq. feet and about 2,000 jobs,” Higgins explained.

Barely two miles down the road, Denise Tumblin Harris, mother of a two-year-old son, is worried about the expected increase in traffic right past her house, whose yard doubles as a used-car sales lot. Right now her road is a somewhat sleepy little county road. But as a businesswoman she’s also excited.

“I’m a small business owner, selling used cars in the neighborhood and hopefully that help[s] our sales go up. I’m hoping to get a bigger car lot.”

Yokohama has already become the vessel of dreams, a return to economic stability for the region and maybe even some degree of prosperity.

 

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Governor Bryant and company officials of Yokohama Tire Manufacturing shovel dirt at the company's groundbreaking ceremony in West Point.


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