Welcome to GulfCoastNews.com
GCN Guest Opinion
Moving Forward
Toyota to Build in Mississippi
by: Sen. Trent Lott       Filed 2/27/07 GCN

            Tuesday was a good day for Mississippi, especially the Tupelo area.  We received an announcement that not only shows our state’s economy is growing, but also is a case study in successful job recruitment – a perfect example of how determination and teamwork by Mississippians produce results. 

A site near Tupelo will be home to Toyota Motor Company’s next North American manufacturing plant.  In three years, the $1.3 billion factory will employ more than 2,000 people to produce Toyota’s popular Highlander crossover sport utility vehicle.

How did Mississippi get chosen by Toyota, the company that is overtaking General Motors as the world’s largest auto manufacturer?  By keeping our mouths shut and working hard.

Without fanfare, Governor Haley Barbour, our state’s U.S. Congressional delegation and economic development officials in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties worked with Toyota over the past several months to bring the company to Mississippi.

As with all economic development projects of this magnitude, this was the culmination of negotiations by many from Washington, D.C., to Jackson to Japan.  And the local leadership in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties certainly deserve credit for their visionary efforts.

Mississippians will now associate Tupelo with Toyota, but remember, Tupelo isn’t the actual location for Toyota’s Highlander plant.  It is near Blue Springs, not far from where the Pontotoc, Union and Lee county lines intersect.

These three counties in 2001 decided it was in their best interest to form an economic development alliance, find a mutual site and work to market their region to potential employers, especially automobile manufacturers.

They called the site “Wellspring,” and they commenced to get the state’s leadership to support it, even though at the time there was no commitment by any company to put anything there.

They were criticized by a lot of people – in the media, the Legislature and from other communities.  Though theirs may have seemed like a “cart before the horse” strategy, there’s no question that on February 27th, their efforts reaped a tangible, indisputable reward.

When the Wellspring concept was being fervently debated and well before Toyota was on the table, I was asked whether I thought the Wellspring idea was a good one.  I thought it was then, and now everyone agrees.  As one of Mississippi’s Senators, I have continually encouraged counties, cities and even states to erase boundaries, find local sites and work regionally on large economic development projects like this one.  By working regionally, areas can draw upon each other’s strengths, offsetting potential weaknesses.

In doing this, the residents of Pontotoc, Lee and Union counties have successfully recruited what Governor Barbour aptly called the “crown jewel” of economic development projects, a factory from a company whose operation, production system and products are envied and sought around the world.

In about three years, many of our fellow Mississippians will have new jobs, at Toyota, building a world-class product.  This is just the latest in a series of successes for our state.  We’ve attracted quality  automotive, aerospace and defense-related jobs brought here by some of the world’s top companies.

We can keep the momentum going.  In Katrina’s awful aftermath, Mississippians showed the world our strength of character, strong work ethic and devotion to our communities.  That positive spirit now will be working with Toyota.  Toyota’s company slogan couldn’t fit us any better.  Toyota and Mississippi are now “Moving Forward” together. 

Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column. 

Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email

Welcome to GulfCoastNews.com