When Shoichiro Toyoda announced in December 1985 that Scott County, Ky., had been selected as the site for Toyota’s first wholly owned vehicle manufacturing plant in the U.S., he called it one of the proudest moments since the company produced its first prototype vehicle.
Since then, there has been no shortage of proud moments, says Wil James, president of Toyota’s largest plant in the world and one of the first 300 employees to join the Kentucky team.
Today the plant is a bustling operation that employs 8,000 people, sprawls 169 football fields (that’s just the building!) and represents a $6 billion (and growing) investment.
Annual production at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky Inc. (TMMK) can top 550,000 vehicles and 600,000 engines. The vehicles manufactured in Georgetown, which include the Camry, Avalon and Venza models, feature a significant amount of locally based content – up to 75 percent. In addition, the plant opened an all-new line in 2015 to produce the first U.S.-assembled Lexus.
With construction underway on a new production engineering campus that is expected to be complete in 2017, Toyota will soon relocate about 300 engineering positions to Georgetown. The 250,000-s.f. building will include a state-of-the-art test lab and provide workspace for approximately 700 employees. The expansion represents a local investment of $80 million.
In addition, over the next three years TMMK is considering plans to undergo a major plant makeover that would include significant changes, such as renovation or replacement of aging equipment and constructing an all-new paint shop, and new technologies that will streamline production processes, improve part handling and logistics, and increase production flexibility.
A recent study completed by the Center for Automotive Research indicates that every Toyota job in Kentucky creates nearly three more across the commonwealth. As of 2015, Toyota’s workforce made up 1.3 percent of the state’s total employment, and its payroll of more than $1.9 billion accounted for 1.6 percent of Kentucky’s total compensation.
“Toyota has had a powerful impact on Kentucky’s economy over the past 30 years,” said Gov. Matt Bevin. “Continued investment in the Georgetown plant, including the production line for the first Lexus made in the U.S., has put the commonwealth on the map as a top state for automotive manufacturing. Add to that the more than $120 million invested in local communities, there is no doubt Toyota is a strong community partner.”
To mark the 30-year milestone, more than $100,000 will go to charitable organizations in celebration of Toyota’s three decades of being part of the community. TMMK will donate $30,000 to a local VEX robotics program, which will support more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) opportunities for students at every level in Scott County.
The plant also will make donations of $10,000 each to Quest Farm and LexPro, Central Kentucky nonprofits focused on helping Kentuckians with disabilities, and a $35,000 donation to Honor Flight Kentucky, a nonprofit that pays for World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans to travel to Washington D.C. to visit memorials dedicated to their service and sacrifices. Additional donations will be announced later this year.