We must look beyond the Toyota headlines

by

Published: February 21,2010

Tags: Blake Wilson, MEC, Toyota

Editor,

Mississippi is often characterized as a whole by a single negative statistic that generates a convenient headline. As little effort is made to look at the whole picture, our state and our people are often mischaracterized by those who don’t know us.

As a native of Delaware, when I first announced to friends I was moving to Mississippi to pursue a great opportunity, they were bewildered. How could there be an opportunity in Mississippi? Clearly this was just one example of folks not looking at the big picture.

Over the years, I have talked to others who moved here from other states and faced similar reactions. They found that when they looked beyond the misperceptions, and focused on the bigger picture, Mississippi was in fact a very special place, with unique opportunities to offer and wonderful people, as well.

We are fortunate that Toyota and so many other companies have been willing to look beyond the headlines and to spend some time getting to know our state well enough to look at the bigger picture.

This is why it is important we as Mississippians understand the recent Toyota model recall to be what it is: an unfortunate but rather common event in the world of automotive manufacturing.

If you spend some time on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web site, you will note that there have been thousands of recalls over the years — and they are happening all the time. Companies must deal with them as Toyota is doing: correct the problem and work to assure continuous improvement to minimize issues in the future.

The Toyota plans for Blue Springs, announced several years ago, enjoyed a rush of enthusiasm, followed by a crush of disappointment over the state of the economy that forced Toyota — and other companies — to sideline their expansion plans until the international economy improves. But the company hasn’t lost faith in Mississippi. The plant is sidelined, not scrubbed.

Toyota already has invested $300 million with the construction of the plant at Blue Springs — and when the national economy improves, another approximately $800 million will be on the way, bringing a huge positive boost to our state — and positioning Mississippi to be at the leading edge in the economic recovery.

Mississippians are called upon regularly to keep the faith and to focus on continuous improvement for the future. We are doing so in education, economic development and workforce — and we have the results to prove it, for those who are willing to look at the bigger picture.

As a state that still relies on manufacturing for tens of thousands of jobs, as business and community leaders we must give these industries that have brought or are bringing significant investments within our borders the same respect and confidence they gave us, with their willingness to take a balanced, careful and objective look at the bigger picture.

Blake A. Wilson

President & CEO, Mississippi Economic Council

Jackson

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