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Toyota resumes prepping for Blue Springs plant

After about 18 months in recession-imposed limbo, Toyota announced this morning that it is resuming preparations to open its facility in Blue Springs.

According to a press release, Toyota hopes to have the plant, which was announced in February 2007 but put on hold indefinitely a year and a half ago, operational in the fall of 2011.

It will not produce the Prius hybrid. Instead, the plant will produce the compact Corolla, and will have the capacity to make 150,000 of them per year, said Toyota spokesperson, Barbara McDaniel.

Blue Springs was originally scheduled to open this year, but the company announced in late 2008 that it was suspending those plans indefinitely as the global recession crushed the automotive market. Toyota maintained for those 18 months that it had no plans to abandon Blue Springs and would eventually open it, bringing 2,000 jobs to Northeast Mississippi.

“Now that things have seemingly turned the corner we want to get back on track,” McDaniel said. “It was always just a temporary hold.”

McDaniel said that since the facility will build the Corolla and not the Prius, the plant can open more quickly since the Corolla was built in the U.S. before at Toyota’s plant in Northern California that was a joint venture with General Motors. Toyota shuttered the plant when GM had to pull out of it as part of its bankruptcy filing and subsequent government rescue.

Randy Kelley heads the Three Rivers Planning and Development District, which oversaw the construction of the facility.

“I’m doing wonderful,” Kelley said when he answered his cell phone Thursday morning. Kelley said Toyota never tried to crawfish on its commitment to get Blue Springs up and running.

“They have been so solid as far as doing what they said they were going to,” he said.

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