MORGANTOWN — Industry leaders and lawmakers praised Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia’s plan to invest in facility upgrades and create new jobs at its Putnam County plant.
On Thursday, Toyota announced a $111 million investment to pay for equipment and facility upgrades at the Buffalo plant. The investment is in anticipation of increased production of hybrid transaxles — from 120,000 a year currently to 240,000 a year starting in 2021.
A total of 123 new jobs will be created at the plant, which currently employs 1,600.
After factoring in Thursday’s announcement, the Buffalo plant represents a $1.4 billion investment by Toyota.
“We are proud to add such a significant cost investment to Toyota West Virginia — not only financially but also in adding team members to the Toyota family,” said Leah Curry, Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia’s president. “Doubling our production of hybrid transaxles in West Virginia solidifies our facility’s role in producing next-generation engines and transmissions that will drive the future of Toyota’s advanced mobility technology.”
Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said Toyota’s announcement vindicates the state’s efforts over the past few years to create a business-friendly environment, lower taxes and streamline regulations.
“Of course this is great news, and it’s a reminder of the importance of getting our business climate right,” he said. “We can be in the winners’ circle every time when we get it right.”
Roberts said data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that West Virginia was one of the nation’s leading states for job growth during the last three quarters of 2018, and that about 16,000 jobs have been added in the Mountain State since 2016.
Roberts said Toyota’s decision to further invest in its Buffalo plant shows that West Virginia has everything large manufacturers are looking for — a skilled and reliable workforce, along with plenty of water and electricity.
West Virginia Manufacturers Association President Rebecca McPhail welcomed Toyota’s decision.
“Of course we’re thrilled,” she said. “Toyota has been a success story in West Virginia, and obviously that success continues with the announcement they made today.”
McPhail said she hopes Thursday’s announcement can foster a broader conversation about manufacturing in the Mountain State and the role it can play going forward, whether it be in the automotive sector or plastics production.
She also said Toyota’s decision sends a strong and positive message to other manufacturers, and she hopes it might encourage them to consider investing in the state too.
The state’s U.S. senators also welcomed Toyota’s announcement.
“In West Virginia, Toyota represents more than just good jobs,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va. “It’s a company committed to improving our economy and investing in our workforce. Today’s announcement further cements the strong community partnership Toyota has in our state.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he’s worked with Toyota since his tenure as governor to help the automaker build on its initial investment in the state during the 1990s.
“I commend Leah Curry and the entire team at the Buffalo facility,” Manchin said. “Long-term investments in West Virginia by companies like Toyota will continue to benefit our state’s economy, communities and her people.”
Manchin said he’s looking forward to Toyota being represented, along with more than 200 other in-state employers, at the Kanawha Valley Regional Job Fair, set for March 22 at the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center.