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Regional approach key factor in landing Toyota assembly plant

TUPELO — It’s a familiar phrase, but it’s one that Mississippians aren’t likely to abandon anytime soon.
Attendees at last week’s press conference on Toyota’s plans to build an automobile assembly plant in North Mississippi once again credited a spirit of regional cooperation as a key ingredient in attracting the automaker to the state. In his remarks to a packed audience at Tupelo High School, Gov. Haley Barbour reiterated the theme as he praised the work of Mississippians who made Toyota’s announcement a reality.

“Many Mississippians deserve enormous credit for our winning this competition,” Barbour stressed, noting the efforts of groups such as the Mississippi Development Authority; the Pontotoc/Union/Lee PUL Alliance; local officials of Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties; the Community Development Foundation (CDF) and leaders within CDF and other organizations that worked toward the initiative; community college and university leaders; Three Rivers Planning and Development District; state officials; the state’s Congressional delegation; and, individual citizens who worked in attracting the automaker to the state.

Those attending the press conference were all smiles as they related the impact of Toyota’s planned presence in the region and the state. Many commented after the program that the multiple effect of Toyota’s decision will be a major plus in other sectors such as housing, retail and others.

“We’ve taken another huge step and this regional alliance is to be commended,” said Blake Wilson, president of the Mississippi Economic Council, in a reference to the importance of cooperation. “This is another example that good things happen when you do the right thing.”

Renasant CEO Robin McGraw said that Toyota’s decision to build in the area reflects “years of teamwork, cooperation and perseverance” exhibited by citizens and community leaders.

Three Rivers’ Randy Kelly reflected on the importance of local government entities working together as partners in innovative ways. “I think we redefined partnership and stuck with this project with a spirit of determination,” Kelly stated.

University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat said that Toyota is “one of the greatest companies in the world in its pursuit of excellence” and that he is excited about the prospects of University interaction with Toyota’s team.

CREATE Foundation President Mike Clayborne said that he believes that the announcement will have a positive impact on charitable organizations in the region and Tupelo Public School District Board President Steve Ludt said that he is excited about Toyota’s commitment to the schools of Lee, Union and Pontotoc counties.

Congressman Roger Wicker noted that students in the audience had much to look forward to as a result of Toyota’s announcement. “You’re witnessing history here-a new era in manufacturing excellence in Northeast Mississippi,” Wicker observed.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Karen Kahler Holliday at mbj@msbusiness.com.


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