If You Build It, They Will Come
After Toyota announced it would locate a plant in Mississippi, suppliers have been quick to follow suit … and the suppliers’ suppliers aren’t far behind.
On the heels of Toyotaâ€™s announcement that it will build a plant in Blue Springs, MS, several automotive suppliers have announced projects in the state. Toyota Auto Body Co., Ltd. (TAB) was the first manufacturer to reveal its intentions to open a plant in Mississippi in July 2007. TAB, which will operate under the name Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi Inc., initially planned to employ 260 people, though that number has since ballooned to 400. TABâ€™s investment in the site has also increased from $180 million to $200 million.
Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi Inc. will supply the Blue Springs plant with body-weld, stamped, and plastic parts. The 100-acre facility is expected to open in 2010. Not surprisingly, this date coincides with the Toyota Highlander SUV plantâ€™s opening.
Other notable Toyota suppliers who have announced plans to locate in the state include PK USA and Toyoda Gosei North American Group. PK USAâ€™s stamping and welding assembly manufacturing facility will open in Senatobia, MS in 2010 and will create 150 new jobs. The company, which will invest $35 million in the new facility, will join more than 90 other automotive manufacturing, distribution, and supplier companies currently operating in Mississippi.
Toyoda Gosei North American Group is slated to construct its new automotive parts manufacturing plant in Batesville, MS. Set to begin production in 2010, the plant will provide Toyota with interior and exterior plastic automotive components. The new plant, which will cost about $19 million to establish, will create 120 jobs in Batesville.
A project team from the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) helped Toyoda Gosei select the Batesville site over contenders in at least two other states. â€śThe Mississippi Development Authority and Panola County Partnership have been a valuable resource for Toyoda Gosei as we begin building a positive relationship with the Batesville community,â€ť says Takashi Matsuura, president of Toyoda Gosei. â€śBoth organizations also played a key role in introducing Toyoda Gosei to various incentive programs that include training for our future workforce.â€ť
And, the Toyoda Gosei facility isnâ€™t the only automotive-related plant that MDA has been instrumental in securing. In fact, the organization has been courting the automotive industry for the past twelve years, coinciding with Nissanâ€™s decision to locate in the state.
MDA officials are optimistic about Mississippiâ€™s ability to attract even more growth in this sector, stating that â€świth its central location in the Southern automotive corridor, Mississippi offers companies a prime location [for] new production and/or distribution centers [that can] serve facilities in not only the state but in surrounding areas.â€ť
Mississippi has recently devoted millions of dollars to attracting facilities in the automotive industry, initiating a $48.4 million bond package in 2007 that was created to facilitate the building of PACCARâ€™s new plant there (see sidebar).
The state has also leveraged its universities to attract automotive companies. Not only do the universities provide potential businesses with a great labor pool, they also act as resources for plants such as those opened by TAB, PK USA, and Toyoda Gosei.
â€śThe research universities in the state have developed facilities â€¦ that can support modern manufacturing and assist companies with finding solutions to problems,â€ť MDA officials claim. Research units such as the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems at Mississippi State Universityâ€™s (MSU) campuses in Starkville and Canton are obvious assets to Toyota and their suppliers, as are the Center for Advanced Manufacturing Excellence at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg.
The latter two institutes are assets not only to the automotive industry, but to the aerospace and defense industries as well. Mississippi has experienced significant growth in these sectors, and this has taken place in concert with the overwhelming growth brought about by Toyotaâ€™s Blue Springs plant.
GE Aviation is just one of the aerospace companies that will be opening new facilities in the state. The 200,000-square-foot plant will open in 2009, producing advanced composite jet-engine components. The GE Aviation plant will bring 100 new jobs to the state of Mississippi. One of the key reasons GE Aviation chose Mississippi is the state university. In 2006, the company worked with MSUâ€™s College of Engineering on early iteration manufacturing programs for its new facility.
Like Toyoda Gosei, GE Aviation chose to locate in Batesville, part of Mississippiâ€™s Golden Triangle, an area that has become increasingly attractive to businesses looking for new industrial sites. Other notable aerospace manufacturers new to the state include RTI International Metals Inc., a producer of titanium sponges.
Raw material providers are also choosing to build facilities in Mississippi. ServerCorrâ€™s new steel mill in Lowndes County is well-situated to serve the stateâ€™s automotive and aerospace industries. Like Toyodo Gosei and GE Aviation, the company chose the Golden Triangle for its mill, which opened in 2007. The company already has plans for a second phase of the millâ€™s development.
The construction of additional facilities in Lowndes County will allow ServerCorr to more than double the millâ€™s current output. Construction will be completed in 2010, which, from the looks of things, is set to be a banner year in Mississippiâ€™s industrial future.