GCN Guest Opinion
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
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,
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
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