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CONTRIBUTED: Toyota USA Newsroom.

Toyota’s U.S. investment increase to bring 450 new jobs to Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE — Toyota officials announced today that they are committing to increase their investment to $13 billion over the next five years—a move that will allow for an increase in Huntsville’s production capacity, bringing about 450 new jobs to the area.

With Toyota and Mazda already planning to bring a $1.6 billion plant to Huntsville, this latest expansion that affects the current local plant further cements Toyota as a driving force in the local economy.

The increase is $3 billion more than what Toyota originally planned to invest in 2017, according to a news release from Toyota. Though the investment means big things are coming for manufacturing plants in five states—Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and West Virginia—Alabama will benefit the most.

The first of these new investments totals nearly $750 million across the five states, and the news release said there is “more to come.” Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, better known as Toyota Alabama, is also receiving the largest chunk of that investment by far: $288 million. Overall, however, Toyota Alabama represents a $1.2 billion investment.

Alabama will receive the vast majority of new jobs created from the investment as well: a whopping 450 of 586. “You know, we’ve had a lot of expansions here, and I was surprised to learn that this is actually the biggest hiring expansion that we’ve had,” said David Fernandes, president of Toyota Alabama, at the announcement event.

Mike Clark, general manager of manufacturing at Toyota Alabama, said Toyota Alabama has expanded four times since beginning production in 2003.

“It is our dedicated workforce that continues to drive this plant forward,” Clark said. “Their commitment to building the world’s best engines is a key reason we continue to expand and grow.”

The release also states that the plant will see an increase in engine capacity from 670,000 to 900,000 by the end of 2021 “to increase product flexibility and better accommodate market demand.” Toyota Alabama said this represents a 35-percent increase in production capacity for the plant. New lines for the 4-cylinder and V6 engines will provide for the new jobs. An expansion of the facility is planned to accommodate these new lines.

Toyota Alabama President David Fernandes said the new lines will facilitate more efficient production for them overall. “The expansion further ensures our competitive edge as we move forward as an advanced manufacturing facility,” he added.

Clark said Toyota Alabama is the only Toyota plant in the world that produces 4-cylinder, 6-cylinder and 8-cylinder engines in one facility. It also produces a total of about one-third of all Toyota engines produced in the nation, making it one of the largest engine manufacturing plants under the company.

“While Madison County, Alabama, is nationally recognized as home of the Rocket City and the propulsion capital of the world, it’s fair to say that we’re the engine capital, producing more than 3,000 engines every 24 hours right here in Madison County, Alabama,” said Chairman Dale Strong of the Madison County Commission.

Madison Mayor Paul Finley, who has been a proud owner of Toyota vehicles, shared an important piece of his trip to Japan with other local officials to meet with Toyota and Mazda executives. After touring a Japanese plant, Finley said he saw how much the employees value quality over quantity—something he has noticed locally as well.

“It struck me, that’s why we’re so good right now—because you guys hold yourselves accountable to a product that, in turn, makes a difference for all our lives,” Finley added.

With today’s announcement, Toyota continues to show their massive support in Alabama’s economy. The automotive manufacturer already supports thousands of jobs across the state. “We have a great partnership, and that’s why this has gone on today,” Strong said.

Working for Toyota has become an attractive career option for high school graduates in the area who want to pursue something other than college.

At the State of the Schools breakfast event in February, Madison City Superintendent Robby Parker said about 12 percent of MCS graduates take that path. Since many of these students have shown an interest in Toyota and similar plants, MCS and other school systems have been implementing more  certification options that students can pursue as part of their studies in high school. This way, Parker said, they can be better prepared to enter the workforce and succeed in “new collar” jobs such as these after they graduate.

Fernandes alluded to this need on a larger scale in his remarks, calling for more attention to preparing students in the area to become skilled laborers in the local workforce.

“Along with this commitment comes an even greater need to focus on building our future workforce,” he said. “When you think about career preparedness, the most fundamental component is literacy, so I’m also extremely excited to announce that yesterday, Toyota USA Foundation announced a $1 million grant to the National Center for Family Learning.”

Moreover, Fernandes said half of that grant will be “directly invested” in Huntsville and Decatur through the Alabama Network of Family Resource Centers. “That is something we can be very proud of,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle.

Fernandes also took the time to recognize several students from Alabama A&M University and Calhoun Community College who participate in workforce development programs supported by Toyota.

“We all know that students are the future, and it’s our responsibility as an industry to engage and collaborate and help build critical skills for the future,” he said.

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