A ceremony this morning at the facility to mark the milestone included speeches by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, U.S. Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks. In his remarks, Governor Bentley mentioned the “Made In Alabama” lapel pin, signifying the state’s economic development brand, and thanked Toyota for its investment in the state.
“I am very proud to be the governor of the state has such great companies as Toyota, but more importantly, I am so proud of the work force that we have in this state,” he said. “And again, I want to thank all of you for what you do every day. You make me proud. You help me recruit industries into this state, and it’s because of you that we’re able to do that.”
The Toyota Alabama plant currently assembles 4-cylinder, V-6 and V-8 engines for eight of the 12 Toyota vehicles produced in North America – the only Toyota plant in the world that makes all three types of engines under one roof. Once the facility’s latest expansion is complete in July 2015, annual engine capacity at the Alabama plant will be nearly 750,000 units.
Since 2001, when Toyota first announced plans to open a $220 million, 350-worker engine plant in Huntsville, the facility has expanded four times and pushed total Toyota investment in Alabama to $850 million. The total workforce at the plan is now around 1,200.
“We’re open for business in Alabama, and that means pro-jobs and pro-investment,” U.S. Senator Shelby, who was making his first visit to the Huntsville plant.
Jim Bolte, president of the Toyota plant in Alabama, recalled that in 2011 a Toyota executive in Japan challenged the Alabama plant to be “the engine capital of the world.” Bolte said today that the Huntsville plant is “certainly on (its) way to achieving that goal.”
In the past two years, Toyota has invested more than $2 billion in nine of its North American manufacturing facilities. Just last summer, Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc. said it would invest another $150 million at its Alabama engine plant to boost its machining capacity and production of V-6 engine parts.
“The hundreds of millions of dollars that you have spent in this community have made this community a better place,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said at the event. “You have also shown the world that we can do advanced manufacturing in Huntsville, Alabama. Advanced manufacturing means that we as a community produce the best quality product ever made on this earth, and you have done that.”
Governor Bentley also said today that Toyota’s latest expansion is “proof that Alabama continues to be a great place for automotive manufacturing companies to be successful.” He added that automotive is one of the key target sectors of the Accelerate Alabama growth plan.
In November, Governor Bentley and other top state economic development officials visited Toyota executives in Japan at the company’s global headquarters, where they discussed the ongoing expansion project in Huntsville. Jim Bolte, head of the Toyota engine plant in Huntsville, accompanied state officials on the visit, where they met with Toyota Chairman Takeshi Uchiyamada and Toyota President Akio Toyoda. (Read a story about that visit.)