Toyota energizes NKY economy with expansion of Georgetown plant

Northern Kentucky continues to grow as an international hub of automotive production, advanced manufacturing, and logistics. A slew of businesses have announced expansions or relocations in the first half of this year, including Southern Air, Messier Bugati, Baluff, Lyons Magnus, and NKY-grown R&D firm ZoomEssence. 

And last month, Toyota announced that it will expand its Georgetown plant to produce the Lexus line of luxury sedans in the United States for the first time.

The announcement reflects the ongoing impact of the auto manufacturer in Northern Kentucky and across the Commonwealth.

"We chose Kentucky because of a successful 25-year partnership with the state," said Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Corporation, at a press conference April 19. "I want to personally thank Gov. Steve Beshear for creating a positive business environment and supporting our partnership, which is still going strong after more than a quarter century."

Officially known as Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky (TMMK), the Georgetown plant, which opened in 1986, is the company's largest manufacturing facility outside of Japan. And now it will get even larger: Toyota is investing $360 million to build its Lexus ES 350 at TMMK beginning in 2015. The expanded plant will produce 50,000 Lexus vehicles annually, creating 750 new jobs in the process. This is just the latest honor for a plant that already produces more than 500,000 cars annually and has earned 10 Initial Quality Plant Awards from J.D. Power and Associates.

"I feel like the state has just won the Kentucky Derby," Gov. Beshear said at the press conference. "We're excited, we're honored by Toyota's decision to build its top-selling, top-of-the-line Lexus sedan right here in Georgetown. And, frankly, we're also very proud." 

Toyota's impact in Northern Kentucky is big, thanks to the corporate headquarters of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., in Erlanger, which employs 1389 people, as well as the Toyota North American Parts Center, Kentucky, in Hebron, which employs 406 people. The region's parts suppliers and logistics providers play a key role in the local automotive sector, making Northern Kentucky one of the best places in the U.S. for automotive production, advanced manufacturing and distribution.

Mike Goss, general manager of external affairs at Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., confirms that the expansion will have a positive economic impact on the entire region.

"Our Georgetown plant currently employs about 6,600 team members," Goss says. "With the recent announcement, the employment figure is nearing 7,400. We believe the addition of 750 stable, good-paying jobs with benefits will provide a boost the Georgetown economy. And that's not including our supplier partners: We have 110 suppliers located in Kentucky and more than 10,000 dedicated supplier jobs in the Commonwealth. Last year alone, Toyota spent $2.7 billion on Kentucky suppliers."

Goss says Toyota's decision to center U.S. production of its Lexus line in Northern Kentucky was easy, given the company's long, successful history in the area.

"The selection of TMMK to build the first Lexus in the U.S. speaks to the confidence we have in the skill, talent and experience of our team members in Kentucky to build the industry's highest quality vehicles at a great value for our customers," Goss says. "Strong partnership support from the community and our local and state officials have provided an opportunity for Toyota to reinvest in the existing Kentucky plant and expand operations to manufacture more products our customers want in North America."

Goss says TMMK has produced more than 9 million vehicles since 1988, a number that will obviously increase in light of the expansion. Just as important for those in region, Goss says Toyota is responsible, whether directly or indirectly, for the employment of more than 20,000 workers.

"Kentucky and the surrounding states continue to provide a strong automotive supply base to support our ongoing localization effort," Goss says.

Recent announcements intensify impact

Toyota is one among many companies thriving in the region. Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corp. (Tri-ED) has celebrated several recent announcements from growing NKY companies. 

In April alone, Southern Air announced relocation of its global headquarters to Florence, representing a $3.5M investment, the creation of 150 jobs, and the presence of another global air cargo carrier in the region. Leading automotive supplier Balluff broke ground on its new headquarters in Independence, which will add 24 full-time jobs. Messier-Bugati-Dowty celebrated the expansion of its wheels and carbon brakes facility in Walton, a $50M investment. Lyons Magnus, which develops products for the food service industry, announced an expansion that will add 50 jobs to its facility in Boone County. High-tech research and development company ZoomEssence cut the ribbon on its new headquarters in Hebron, which will employ 20 people and invest more than $3M in the local economy. 

"We are seeing tremendous momentum right now," says Karen Finan, Senior Vice President at Northern Kentucky Tri-ED.

"These expansions show that Northern Kentucky is a globally influential region with a competitive workforce and a great business climate." 

"We are proud that Toyota has invested in our region," she adds. "And we look forward to the growth they will continue to bring."

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