Posted on March 29, 2003
Toyota Motor Co. subsidiary Bodine Aluminum Inc. will build a $124 million aluminum engine-parts factory in Jackson, Tenn., that will employ 200 people, officials announced yesterday. The 200-acre site west of Jackson is part of an industrial park that Toyota considered earlier this year when it was looking for a home for its new truck assembly plant, which will be built near San Antonio, Texas. The company estimates that its total investment in the plant over 20 years will total $373 million. The plant will cast molten aluminum into engine blocks that will be used by all of the company's North American engine plants, Toyota Senior Vice President Dennis Cuneo said. "This is great news for West Tennessee; this is great news for Tennessee," Gov. Phil Bredesen said in making the announcement. The Toyota plant is the first major economic development announcement of Bredesen's term, which began in January. "This is exactly the kind of project that we are going to seek out," Bredesen said. In return for investing $124 million and creating 200 construction jobs and 200 permanent plant jobs, the company will get about $6 million in local property tax abatements. The state will pay for site improvements, which will benefit the entire industrial park, not just Toyota's 200-acre tract, said Matt Kisber, state Department of Economic and Community Development commissioner. In addition, the company will get a $400,000 job creation tax credit from the state, and the state will assist in job training. Recruiting efforts began five years ago, during the administration of former Gov. Don Sundquist, with help from Bill Baxter, a TVA commissioner who was head of the state Department of Economic and Community Development at the time. Sundquist and former ECD Commissioner Tony Grande were in Tokyo on election night Nov. 5, pushing for the truck plant and the engine plant. Cuneo said he was impressed by the bipartisan nature of Tennessee's recruiting effort and appreciates the state's pro-business climate. Cuneo said the plant is the latest of Toyota's investments in Tennessee. Toyota is a major stakeholder in Denso Manufacturing Tennessee, which has automotive parts plants in Maryville, Athens and Jackson. It also has a logistics center in Memphis and a financial services office in Nashville. In addition, Toyota has 43 major parts suppliers that are in Tennessee, with which it did $1.4 billion worth of business last year. Combined, the company and its suppliers employ more than 8,600 people in Tennessee. "It's the economic equivalent of an assembly plant," Cuneo said. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who tried to entice Toyota to build an assembly plant in Knoxville while he was governor in the 1980s, said Jackson residents shouldn't be discouraged that they didn't get the truck plant. After Toyota chose Kentucky for its plant site in the 1980s, it brought Denso to Maryville. The plant started with 300 people and employs 2,200, he said. Industry sources had indicated earlier this month that the company planned to invest $300 million and employ 500. Toyota spokesman Dan Sieger said he was not aware of discussion of plans of that magnitude. Cuneo said the company's earlier search for a truck plant site brought the Jackson site to its attention. He said the company was familiar with the area through Denso, which has an oil filter plant in Jackson. But the "Pringle" factor helped seal the deal. Cuneo, who is based in Erlanger, Ky., a suburb of Cincinnati, said acquaintances with Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble bragged about the work force in Jackson, where the company makes its Pringles brand of potato chip. "They told us the Jackson work force is absolutely the best in the United States," he said. Construction on the Jackson site will begin later this year. The plant will begin accepting job applications in early 2005, with production scheduled to begin in late 2005, Cuneo said. Production wages haven't been set, but its Troy, Mo., facility pays $16.50 to $20.50 an hour for its skilled trades. Most of the plant's employees will come from Tennessee, with a few managers coming from out of state, Cuneo said.