Archive

Archive for the ‘Manufacturing’ Category

Additions coming to Nissan’s Canton plant (Updated)

April 20th, 2011 2 comments

There was some Canton-related news at Wednesday’s New York International Auto Show.

To make room for a new Infiniti luxury crossover and the electric LEAF sedan at its Smyrna, Tenn, plant, Nissan will shift production of the Xterra SUV and Frontier pickup models to Canton.

The production shifts are part of Nissan’s overall build-up of its North American manufacturing capacity. Currently, 69 percent of Nissan vehicles are made domestically. By 2015, that will increase to 85 percent. A press release Nissan issued Wednesday morning said production of the LEAF would begin in Smyrna by the end of 2012, so it follows that Canton would start to make the Xterra and Frontier around then.

The Xterra and the Frontier are the second and third additions to Canton’s portfolio in the past year. Last year, Canton started making the NV Commercial Van, which was the company’s first North American foray into the light commercial vehicle market.

“With today’s announcements, we remain on track to localize our manufacturing base around the world – especially in the Americas,” Nissan Americas chairman Carlos Tavares said in the press release. “This drive for balance and flexibility across our operations is essential to support our growth plans in the region.”

 

UPDATE: Gov. Haley Barbour and MDA executive director Leland Speed have just released a statement on the Nissan news. The pertinent language:

 

“I am thrilled Nissan officials are adding two models to the production line-up at their Canton facility as a result of their plans to increase production in North America,” Barbour said. “This decision is a testament to high quality work performed by the employees in Canton. I congratulate them.”
 
The Mississippi Development Authority worked closely with the company to help facilitate the project. The agency provided assistance through the Momentum Mississippi Incentives and Job Protection Grant programs, as well as assistance for training and infrastructure improvements.
 
“Nissan has been a valued member of Mississippi’s corporate community for more than a decade, and the company’s continued investment in its Canton plant speaks volumes of Nissan’s confidence in its skilled Mississippi workforce,” said Speed. “I am proud of the strong partnership we have forged with Nissan over the years and am pleased we were able to provide assistance for this project.”

 

Will the Japan disaster affect Toyota’s Blue Springs plant? Let’s find out (Updated)

March 14th, 2011 No comments

While it’s certainly not the most important issue, Toyota announced late Sunday night that it has suspended production at all of its Japanese facilities in the wake of the earthquake and ensuing tsunamis.

Toyota said in a press release that it had received no reports of major injuries at any of its Japanese facilities, including its Tokyo headquarters.

The suspended production, though, got us to wondering if all of this would have any sort of effect on the Blue Springs plant, which is scheduled to start making Corollas this fall. We have calls into Toyota’s North American headquarters. When we hear back, we’ll tell what we know. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: We just got off the phone with Barbara McDaniel, Toyota’s external affairs manager for its Southeast operations. “The short answer is no,” she said, referring to the possibility that the shutdown in Japan could push back or otherwise delay the opening of the Blue Springs plant. “The production stoppage in Japan will have no impact on Blue Springs at this point. All of our other North American facilities are running on schedule.”

Obviously, this will be something to watch, as Japan begins its recovery. And watch we will.

Corollas not on Toyota’s latest recall list

October 21st, 2010 4 comments

A lot of folks lost a lot when that oil well in the Gulf of Mexico started gushing.

If there were a winner, it was Toyota. Just before the well blew Toyota was the hottest news around, and it wasn’t because everybody liked Camrys.

Rather, the company was being excoriated by consumers, industry analysts, even Congress for what was considered its less-than-ideal response to a wave of problems with its vehicles, most of them to do with sudden unintended acceleration. So when the Gulf started filling with oil, Toyota’s PR nightmare was replaced with BP’s.

Toyota recall news returned today, when the company announced that it was issuing recalls for several of its Lexus models and its Avalon because of problems with their brake fluid and fuel pumps. Nearly 750,000 cars in the U.S. and 600,000 in Japan are affected.

The good news: The Corolla, the compact sedan Blue Springs workers will begin producing next year, is not on the list. The bad news: This latest recall brings to 10 million the total number of vehicles Toyota has recalled in the past year, including 1.33 million Corollas in August due to concerns over their engines stalling.

This could be an illustration of Toyota being overly cautious. Or it could be a legitimate recall. Either way, Toyota seems determined not to let this recall issue eat it up like it did last spring.

Barbour toots job-creation horn

October 14th, 2010 No comments

Most of the press releases that come out of Gov. Haley Barbour’s office have something to do with an event.

The governor’s holding a press conference. The governor’s filling an empty seat on a judicial bench. He’s making an appointment to a state agency. He’s setting the date for a special election.

If they aren’t announcing something, they usually contain a statement relevant to a recent event. Here lately, most of his comments have taken on a national tone, hitting on broad political themes.

But we’ve never seen one quite like the one that landed in Magnolia Marketplace’s inbox a few minutes ago. For one, at more than 900 words, it’s a lot longer than most. Second, it’s not really announcing anything. What it is doing is pointing out some of Barbour’s year-to-date economic development wins.

According to the release, more than 5,000 new jobs were created in the first three quarters of 2010 by state-assisted economic development projects. Mentioned are Will.Schulz GMBH — the German company that hopes to manufacture at its Tunica facility pipes for the natural gas industry — Lane Furniture’s expansion in Lee County and Southern Motion’s 200 new jobs in Pontotoc, among many others.

The 5,000 new jobs created with the state’s help in the first nine months of this year, says the release, are more than what were created in all of 2009. It also mentions, but does not give a figure, that job-creation has been spurred by projects that did not seek state assistance, financial or otherwise.

Every project listed in the release is old news. No ground is being broken, just re-tilled.

So what’s the point? Well, wouldn’t job-creation within his own state be a leg of any platform Barbour might use in a presidential campaign? Sure would. And it’s our guess that this won’t be the last press release of its kind that Barbour puts forth.

You can read the release in its entirety here.

Chinese Co. solidifies stake in Amory steel mill

September 15th, 2010 No comments

What was already official became officially official yesterday in China.

Anshang, a partially state-owned Chinese steel company, finalized an agreement with Steel Development Corp. to purchase a 14 percent stake in SDC’s facility in Amory that will manufacture rebar.

Magnolia Marketplace wrote a story two months ago about some of the angst this was causing members of the Congressional Steel Caucus. They were concerned this move was part of a Chinese plan to manipulate the U.S. steel industry from within, and wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asking him to investigate the matter. The only thing new out of yesterday’s announcement is the 14 percent number. Originally, an SDC spokesman confirmed to the Mississippi Business Journal that Anshang would purchase a  “less than 20 percent stake” in the mill.

Neither Cong. Travis Childers, D-Booneville, who represents Amory as part of the 1st District, nor his general election opponent, Tupelo Republican Alan Nunnelee, had much of a problem with the Chinese investment when we spoke to them in early July. Neither did State Rep. Jimmy Puckett, D-Amory. They all said the area could use the 175 jobs SDC planned to provide once the facility is open. Childers expressed the most concern of the three, saying at one point in his interview with us that he didn’t want to “sell us out to Red China.” Nunnelee was probably the least bothered, countering that the Steel Caucus, whose members are mostly from the Rust Belt, might be a little jealous. “Sounds to me like it’s people trying to meddle in Mississippi’s business,” he said in early July.

At that time, there was no target date for the mill’s opening. That’s still the case.

To go with its 14 percent stake, Anshang will provide some of the technology the mill uses to make rebar, and it will also have a seat on SDC’s board.

The Viking has had a good couple weeks (updated)

September 3rd, 2010 No comments

Opinions and observations to kick off the long weekend …

Randy Watkins, Viking Classic boss, fine Ole Miss man and one of Magnolia Marketplace’s favorite people, had a double-shot of good news recently.

First, the PGA Tour announced in late August that it was renewing The Viking Classic for an additional year, guaranteeing the tournament would be played at Annandale in Madison at least through 2011. We did a story earlier in the summer about the contract between the Tour and the Viking expiring after this year, and most everybody we talked to was optimistic that the relationship between the two would continue. So while it’s  not much of a surprise, it still has to be a relief for Watkins and other Viking organizers.

Then, earlier this week, Viking Range announced that Emeril Lagasse would do two cooking demonstrations at the tournament. The Viking has had some fairly famous celebrity chefs at past tournaments, but none with the name recognition and drawing power of Emeril. You can purchase tickets for the tournament and/or Emeril’s cooking demos at vikingclassic.com. If you plan to be in town the last weekend of September, you should do just that.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security announced late yesterday afternoon that it had received its 10,000th application related to the Toyota plant in Blue Springs. The agency says 8,700 of those 10,000 are from Mississippians. The rest come from 36 states across the U.S. MDES is helping Toyota fill 1,350 of the 2,000 jobs at the facility, so some HR person has a pile of paper work on their desk, and it’s only getting bigger. Let’s hope they move faster — and exercise a little more common sense — than the NCAA did and does.

Enjoy your Labor Day, and be safe.

URGENT UPDATE: Remember what we said about the NCAA in the above paragraph? Disregard. Jeremiah Masoli can play football for Ole Miss this year. The NCAA is a fair-minded, sense-driven organization.

Toyota officially kicks off hiring process today

August 23rd, 2010 10 comments

Toyota and Gov. Haley Barbour announced just a few minutes ago that the company has started the process of hiring the 2,000 people who will eventually work at the Blue Springs facility.

The news is not a surprise, considering Toyota and Barbour said that last week they’d  have details about the hiring cycle today.

So here they are:

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi is coordinating the hiring of its workers through the Mississippi Department of Employment Security and the Workforce Investment Network (WIN) Job centers. That includes hourly skilled workers — the folks who will actually build the Toyota Corolla — and the hourly maintenance workers, who will keep the facility in operating shape.

Those interested can apply at www.mdes.ms.gov. Once there, click on the “Toyota” link underneath the Access Mississippi Online Services section. You can also peruse a list of the WIN Job Centers across the state at the same place.

Toyota expects to hire about 1,000 workers from the WIN Job Centers. The first Corollas are scheduled to come off the assembly line next fall.

GreenTech news leads off the week

May 24th, 2010 2 comments

Since Charles Wang announced plans last fall to build a hybrid vehicle manufacturing facility in Tunica County, not much has happened, and even less has been heard.

The state’s economic development officials, from the county level all the way up to Gov. Haley Barbour, repeat variations of a theme whenever they’re asked about GreenTech, Wang’s company: The state is waiting for the company to raise capital. Until then, there’s just not much to talk about.

Well, now there is something to talk about, and I’m going to be taking a look at it for a story in next week’s MBJ.

GreenTech has acquired EuAuto, a Hong-Kong based company that designs and builds what are called “NEVs,” or neighborhood electric vehicles. Check out the small story we had about it on our website here.

In a statement, GreenTech Chairman Terry McAuliffe, former head of the Democratic National Committee and failed candidate for governor of Virginia, mentions Mississippi — but not Tunica specifically — as one of GreenTech’s target areas for green job creation. But McAuliffe doesn’t provide any insight into how this acquisition will affect the plans for Tunica. He also doesn’t explain what exactly a NEV, which sounds an awful lot like a golf cart, is. We’ll try to find out answers to those questions and more.

Familiar name among GreenTech leadership

April 22nd, 2010 No comments

In this week’s edition of the MBJ, we took a look at the latest with GreenTech Automotive, the hybrid vehicle company that supposedly wants to build a $1 billion manufacturing facility in Tunica.

Long story short, not much has happened in the six months since Charles Wang, GreenTech’s founder and CEO, held a bizarre groundbreaking that wasn’t really a groundbreaking. The party line from the Mississippi Development Authority and Gov. Haley Barbour then was the state would sit back and wait for GreenTech to raise capital. That’s still the same.

What is new, however, and didn’t really fit into the print story, was an addition to GreenTech’s leadership team.

Terry McAuliffe, whose time as head of the Democratic National Committee was marked by record fundraising, has taken over role of chairman for the company. Since at least a portion of the capital needed to get the project moving will come from the EB-5 investment program, which offers Visas to foreigners who invest a minimum of $500,000 in U.S. economic development projects, GreenTech will need someone who can separate investors from their money. McAuliffe has shown remarkable skill at just that.

When he chaired the DNC from 2001-2005, McAuliffe led an effort that pulled in over half a billion dollars and hauled the DNC out of debt for the first time in its history. He went on to manage Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2008 and made an unsuccessful bid for governor of Virginia last year.

Barbour, who will tell anybody willing to listen that his first priority is job creation, clearly  has to be intrigued by GreenTech, though he won’t say anything beyond the standard wait-and-see response he’s given since last fall. Barbour sees the energy sector as one that holds a lot of promise for Mississippi.

So it’s interesting that one of Barbour’s long-time political adversaries is playing a major part in what would be a major energy project for the state.

“Terry’s an old friend of mine,” Barbour said recently when we asked him about McAuliffe’s affiliation. “Our politics are different, but I’m grateful he’s involved. I hope they’ll be able to put together their financing.”

GreenTech has been surrounded by a pile of skepticism (and rightfully so) since news of the company broke last fall. A lot of smart automotive folks think the project is a pipe dream; honestly, it probably is. But McAuliffe has a solid fundraising track record. Still, he needs to pull a lot of money-covered rabbits out of a lot of hats.

MC to host automotive symposium

March 31st, 2010 34 comments

Mississippi’s automotive industry has had quite a bit of news recently. Toyota is still navigating the recall mess, and Nissan just affirmed plans to start producing light commercial vehicles at its facility in Canton, starting this fall.

Those two topics — and the future of Toyota’s Blue Springs facility — will likely be front and center April 16 at the Mississippi College School of Law in Downtown Jackson. The school will hold an automotive symposium from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the Student Center.

Some familiar names and faces are scheduled to appear. They include Gov. Haley Barbour; David Copenhaver, vice president of Toyota Manufacturing, Mississippi; Jim Barksdale; Paul Johnson, director of the Toyota project at the Mississippi Development Authority; and Mississippi Economic Council President Blake Wilson.

J. Larry Lee, professor of law at MC, will moderate the event.

According to a press release from the school, the symposium and its participants will “assess the risks and opportunities that will define the future of the automotive industry,” a sector government and economic development officials hope will be a significant part of the Mississippi’s economy moving forward.

Mark your calendar. It’s pretty rare to get a group like this in the same room, so there should be some pretty interesting conversation.