Mississippi Possible Contender For New Toyota Plant

According to economic development sources, Toyota is considering at least four sites in the Southeast for a new $750 million dollar plant - one of which is Como, Mississippi, near Memphis in Panola County.

Other sites being considered by Japan's largest automaker include Fackler, Alabama, West Memphis, Arkansas, and Jackson, Tennessee - all near Memphis.

The northeast Alabama site being considered by Toyota includes about 1,000 acres owned by retired dentist Tommy Foster and some adjacent land owned by at least one other property owner.

Foster said Monday he didn't want to talk about the Toyota project until the company makes a final decision on the location of its new plant, expected to create 2,000 jobs. A Toyota spokeswoman said she did not know when a decision would be made.

Alabama has already lured a number of auto makers to its state. Hyundai is currently building a $1 billion plant in Montgomery, Honda is undertaking a $425 million expansion in Lincoln and Mercedes in the midst of a $600 million expansion in Vance. Toyota also chose Huntsville for a $220 million V-8 engine plant now under construction.

Tennessee has its own automotive success stories, with Nissan and Saturn producing vehicles there.

Mississippi beat Alabama to win a $930 million Nissan plant nearing completion near Jackson.

Arkansas does not have an auto plant but would certainly like one, according to Jim Pickens, director of the Arkansas Department of Economic Development.

"Toyota would be a great catch,'' said Pickens, who would not confirm Arkansas is in the running for the plant.

A spokeswoman for the Mississippi Development Authority said Monday the agency does not comment on economic development projects, as did a spokesman for Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. But Siegelman told The Huntsville Times in a Saturday story the state is trying to win the project.

"This is a very competitive situation,'' Siegelman told the newspaper. "A number of states are competing and Alabama's offer is very competitive, but my standard refrain is, I don't comment on an industrial prospect until it becomes a reality.''