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Another side to Toyota's troubles

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Another side to Toyota's troubles

Shift in production leaves tiny Miss. town disappointed



BLUE SPRINGS, Miss. -- Terry McShan isn't thinking about car sales analyses or excess capacity when he drives by the idle Toyota plant in northeast Mississippi. He's thinking about his little girl.

Like most Mississippians, the 46-year-old father of one grown daughter and a 4-year-old one was thrilled when Toyota announced plans in 2007 to build a plant in Blue Springs, a one-store town in the north Mississippi hills. McShan soon enrolled in a junior college's automotive program in hopes of landing a job at the plant.

Those were better times, when the car market was strong. Mississippi officials gladly signed off on a $324-million incentive package and Toyota said it would be building cars in Blue Springs in 2010. Three years later, the economy has tanked, one of the most trusted brands in the business has recalled millions of cars and McShan will graduate with no immediate prospects for a Toyota job in Mississippi.

Toyota says it's holding off production, not because of the recall, but until the car market improves and the company sells off excess capacity.

"When I heard Toyota was coming, I thought, 'This is the (college) program that I need.' I've been here ever since, waiting for Toyota to open," McShan said at Itawamba Community College.

"I'm just trying to give my daughter the best education that I can," McShan said. "That job right there would help give her the best."

Toyota officials insist the recalls won't have any effect on the Blue Springs plant.

"It's just a question of when the market will support the capacity that we will have at this plant," said David Copenhaver, who is in charge of the Blue Springs facility.

Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour, who helped lure the plant, said Toyota "made a commonsense business decision that they need to wait for the automobile market to improve."

The building is mostly completed, but Toyota still has to install hundreds of millions of dollars in manufacturing equipment and hire and train workers.

At Itawamba Community College, Barry Emison, a tool and dye technology teacher, said "about 100%" of the students hoped to get a job related to the new plant.

"There's disappointment, but they all are still looking forward to that day Toyota does come," Emison said.



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