Is Huntsville ready for the new Toyota-Mazda plant?

Is Huntsville ready for the new Toyota-Mazda plant?
(Source: WAFF 48 News)
(Source: WAFF 48 News)

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - What has been going on behind the scenes to make the Huntsville area an enticing spot for cars companies?

Toyota and Mazda will build a new plant in north Alabama at a TVA mega site, creating 4000 jobs.

Officials say efforts have been underway for the past decade to make it a prime location for businesses, including developing infrastructure.

The man spearheading a lot of those discussions spoke to us about the work and preparations that have led to this point.

When top officials took to the stage in Montgomery Wednesday to make the big announcement about the joint venture to build a new auto manufacturing facility in the Greenbrier community, many pointed to Huntsville Urban Development Director Shane Davis as one of the leaders who helped make it all happen.

"We've been planning for this since 2008, making investments for over a decade.  We've made investments in our school systems to have not only a workforce today, but a workforce tomorrow so I say to our entire community and our regional partners that the fruits of our labor are paying off today," he said.

There was a lot riding on being chosen for the project. Alabama beat out North Carolina in a five-month national site selection process.

"When you get down to two communities left, the margin between winning and losing is razor thin. We have a good team. There were lot of people spending a lot of late nights and into the wee hours of the morning, making sacrifices with our families through the holidays. We thank our families for that and now, our community wins out," Davis said.

Many point to the TVA mega site as one of the big things that set Huntsville/Limestone County apart and Davis says a lot has been done out there to lure companies.

"When we say a shovel ready site, that's what we started in 2008, getting it certified from an environmental  and geotechnical standpoint, making investments in our water, sewer, gas, electric with our various utilities departments throughout the region. Then there's Greenbrier Parkway, the state making improvements to Exit 3. It's just all the little things that add up as you chisel the rock each year that get you in the position we're in today," he said.

The Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield says just based on the project itself, not counting suppliers that will develop over time, there will be $5.2 billion of payroll impact over 20 years. State revenue flows of $1.3 billion are expected over a 20 year period, Canfield revealed.

When asked if President Trump's push to get auto companies to build more vehicles in the U.S. was a factor in building this North Alabama plant, Toyota officials were adamant that they did not feel pressure from the administration to do this.

And when asked about the U.S. auto sales market flat-lining, officials acknowledged that the passenger car market is down 10 percent.

But they pointed out that last year, the Corolla sold over 330,000 vehicles in the U.S. alone.

They're confident that the number of cars they will produce each year at the new plant is the right for them.

Another big question, what will this do for the local educational system?

"The construction sales tax, the one cent tax, will put $13 million into Athens City Schools and Limestone County Schools in the next 24 months. When the plan is up and operational in the first quarter of 2021, we're estimating almost double the sales tax income for the schools in Limestone County. That in and of itself is huge for our citizens," said Mark Yarbrough, chairman of the Limestone County Commission.

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