The residents near Tupelo, MS, finally got the news they have been looking for. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda announced plans to open its long-delayed plant in Blue Springs next year.
I tell the story of Blue Springs in The Selling of the American Economy, but briefly, the plant was the subject of an intense competition between a number of southern states last decade. Mississippi saw the plant as a way to revive its economy after Hurricane Katrina, and its governor, Haley Barbour, devoted himself to winning the factory. But landing Blue Springs was only the beginning of what has become a roller coaster ride.
Initially, the plant was scheduled to open in 2009, building the Toyota Highlander. Then its opening was delayed until this year, and the vehicle was changed to the Toyota Prius. When its financial crisis descended in late 2008, Toyota put the plant on an indefinite hold, as it did with other projects worldwide.
Now, Toyota says Blue Springs will open in 2011, building the Corolla.
You might remember that Toyota built the Corolla at its joint venture plant with General Motors in Fremont, Calif. That factory, called NUMMI, closed in April, although the plant site now is scheduled to become the future home of a new car that will be built by Tesla, the luxury electric company. Toyota said last month that it would invest $50 million in Tesla.
I got inside Blue Springs two years ago when I traveled to Mississippi to do research for the book. You can read about it here and also see some photos of what the factory looks like.
Toyota said it is still planning to hire 2,000 workers for the factory, and it will spend the next year training them and finishing the plant.