Thursday, October 11, 2007
A trip east through Toyota territory last week made me aware of the rapid progress around the Blue Springs location.
Four-lane Highway 78 (Future I-22) goes down to one lane on either side as Mississippi Department of Transportation employees stay busy with upgrade work.
Also, from the highway, the actual site preparation near the exit is much more visible.
Upgrading Highway 78 to interstate standards was already in the plan prior to Toyota’s announcement in February of this year. That big news has given it a boost.
One report I read last week said the new interstate should be fully in service by 2015. That’s when I-269 – an outer-loop route around Greater Memphis – should be finished. And, of course, I-269 means two interstate highways rolling through Marshall County.
I-22 will mean a long-awaited, direct, better route from Memphis, Tenn., to Birmingham, Ala.
Alabama appears to be pushing its end of the deal, too.
A recent newspaper report from the north Alabama area said construction along I-65 in Birmingham will soon begin to make way for a major interchange connection to I-22.
A 20-mile stretch of I-22 from Jasper to Graysville is still on schedule to open this fall. Some reports have quoted Alabama transportation officials saying the opening may come as soon as Thanksgiving.
Plans call for the entire Alabama portion – from the Mississippi line to I-65 – to be completed by 2011, but a spokesman for the Alabama Department of Transportation called that “very ambitious.”
Toyota will invest $1.3 billion in its eighth North American manufacturing facility in Blue Springs, creating 2,000 direct jobs once the plant opens and expected 4,900 spin-off, or indirect, jobs within five years of the plant’s opening.
This means tremendous economic progress potential for all cities and counties near Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi.
Back in August, Toyota Boshoku Corp., a Japanese parts supplier, announced it would build a new, $80 million facility near Fulton.
The 341,000-square-foot plant will sit on 40 acres just south of U.S. Highway 78 off the Fawn Grove Road exit, near the Dorsey community. Some 24 miles from the main Toyota assembly plant, it will provide seats, door panels and carpet for TMMM.
More recently, Toyota Auto Body Co. Ltd., known as TAB, announced it had chosen Baldwyn as the site for its newest manufacturing facility and its first in the U.S. The 100-plus acre operation will provide stamped parts, body weld parts and plastic parts to the Toyota plant at Blue Springs.
These are good times for North Mississippi. And we should all be excited about the region’s growth.
There’s also plenty of conversation in Marshall County about its chances for landing a Toyota supplier.
One thing’s certain – it’s going to take communication and teamwork, from all entities involved. It’s going to take improvement – and not just in the education arena – but largely in attitude.
Our county has lots of positives and positive things happening. No county is perfect. We need to play up those positives and work on the problems – together.
We all need to play a part in selling Marshall County – from the convenience store worker to the elected official, from the restaurant to the newspaper.
One of the best things going is the Leadership Marshall County program. A new class is forming for next year. This program is bringing Marshall Countians together, forming friendships, opening communication, tackling issues, building bridges and taking on much-needed projects.
Get involved in making Marshall County better. Be a part of the community-building team, not the tearing down one.
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