Toyota Motor Corp. said on Dec. 2 that it will postpone for several months a decision on building an assembly plant in one of five potential locations, including Mississippi. A decision had been expected by early December. The other finalists for the $750 million North American vehicle assembly plant are Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, and Alabama.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has said the Texas Legislature could be asked to consider some long-term incentives for Toyota. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee — who has proposed a five-eighths cent sales tax hike that could create an economic incentive fund — has indicated his willingness to call a special legislative session in early January. Additionally, Toyota now says any site it selects ideally would have rail access from at least two carriers. Texas, for one, needs time to resolve a dispute between two rail carriers that, unless settled, would prevent its San Antonio site from having service from more than one rail company.
Mississippi’s proposed site is in an area served by only one carrier — Canadian National Railway. Arkansas’s proposed site, 10 miles west of Memphis, has five rail carriers’ lines within several miles and a Union Pacific intermodal rail and truck shipping facility less than a mile from the site. “Dual rail access has worked very well at our other North American plants, and it’s an important factor in our site selection,” said Dan Sieger, a spokesman for Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America.
Site selection specialists say Texas and Arkansas have been the most aggressive in compiling incentives for the Toyota project. The Arkansas site is a 1,265 acre-tract in Marion, a small town near West Memphis — an area that could draw job seekers from Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The proposed plant would employ between 2,000 and 4,000 workers.