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Toyota Finds Success in Putnam County

By WHITNEY BURDETTE ∙ wburdette@statejournal.com

Just a few years ago, the space that is now home to Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia was just a large, open field.

But now, that space boasts an ever-growing plant that manufactures engines and transmissions for popular models of Toyota cars, trucks and minivans. The plant recently manufactured its 10 millionth unit, becoming Toyota's first plant outside of Japan to reach that milestone, said Millie Marshall, senior vice president of manufacturing for Toyota Motor Manufacturing of West Virginia.

"We are proud of our accomplishments and our 1,300 team members who are dedicated to building high-quality engines and transmissions for our customers across North America," Marshall said. 

Toyota has a long history in West Virginia. The first phase of the plant was completed in 1998, and it has expanded seven times since then. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., is credited with bringing the corporation to the state. He first traveled to Japan in 1986 to meet with Shoichiro Toyoda, then-chairman of the company. The two discussed the possibility of opening a facility in West Virginia, and a years-long friendship and business partnership began.

"The dream of transforming an empty field in Buffalo into one of West Virginia's economic treasures began almost 30 years ago," Rockefeller said. "From that time, we worked tirelessly on this project — from multiple trips my team and I made to Japan, and Toyota's multiple site visits to West Virginia, and countless phone calls and meetings between our teams — I was determined to make this happen."

Marshall said the continued growth and success of the plant proved Rockefeller right.

"You can see by the consistent growth of the plant and the quality of the products built that Sen. Rockefeller was correct," she said. 

Over the past 17 years, West Virginia and Putnam County have reaped the benefits Toyota has brought to the state. According to Marshall, the company has invested $1.3 billion into the facility at Buffalo, has donated $6.5 million to local community organizations and in 2012, 72 employees spent a combined 11,000 hours volunteering in community organizations.

"In addition, during the past two years, TMMWV participated in 140 community activities including plant tours, presentations in schools and community organizations, et cetera, and touched more than 29,000 people," Marshall said. 

And Toyota isn't the only Japanese company doing business in West Virginia. Others have followed suit, and since 1996, 11 companies have located in West Virginia, seven of which are Toyota suppliers. 

"Plus, through our seven major expansions, TMMWV will continue to be an important part of Toyota's commitment to localizing production in North America," Marshall said. "Our diverse product range will allow us to be flexible and to better react to changes in customer demand.

"We are committed to Putnam County and West Virginia, and we are focused on continuing to build high-quality engines and transmissions for our customers across North America," she added.

Marshall said Toyota's motto is "Respect for people and continuous movement." The motto is reflected in Toyota's high safety standards and low environmental impact.

Rockefeller said he's proud of the company and its effect on West Virginia's economy.