A couple years ago it was San Antonio, over the next couple years it will be Blue Springs, Mississippi. With a new Toyota plant slated to open, the hiring frenzy has begun.
To fill the 2,000 jobs at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi plant, which will open in two years near Blue Springs, the automaker is expected to begin taking applications sometime in the first half of the year. And it expects some 70,000 people to submit their credentials.
And that is scaring some local employers.
For employers, that presents a challenge – some would say an opportunity – in how to deal with Toyota and the possibility of losing workers to the automaker or one of its suppliers.
Gene O’Hargan, vice president and general manager for lighting manufacturer Day-Brite/Capri/Omega, knows that some of the 700 workers at the company’s Tupelo facility could be hired by Toyota. Some of those high-skilled jobs that Toyota is looking for may very well be found at Day-Brite.nn“Our biggest concern would be in losing someone who has been with us for a long time and what we call the ‘replacement costs’ involved,” O’Hargan said.
Oh sure… now a company is finally concerned about the value of knowledge and experience! Actually a search finds that Genlyte, which owns Day-Brite, does prefer North American factories and doesn’t seem to be following the siren song of supposedly cheap labor to China. Funny thing… they’re growing rapidly. If it hadn’t been for the fact that they were just purchased by Philips I might have added them to the Best Lean Companies for 2008 poll.
The reality is that Toyota will be a benefit to all employers in the region. Think about the skills this new workforce is already gaining.
About six years ago, Itawamba Community College, in preparation for Toyota, began training in lean manufacturing, which was derived from the Toyota Production System. Since then, some 2,000 people have gone through the program and have gone back to their factories and businesses implementing those principles. “It seems everybody is doing it around here, at least,” Beadles said. “When it has been applied, and embraced by a company, you see that they’ve done very well.”
Toyota is sourcing potential workers from around the country to fill the new positions.
It’s not unusual to find former employees from other manufacturing companies now building vehicles at a Toyota plant. The automaker also has put teachers, bankers, doctors, grocers, lawyers – you name it – on its payroll. And that, some people say, is why NeMiss companies shouldn’t be too worried about losing their workers to Toyota.
And, unfortunately, there is a ready supply of potential employees from an industry that succumbed to the outsourcing temptation instead of focusing inward.
One potential source of employees is the $4 billion furniture industry, which is based primarily in this region. Some 20,000 people are directly employed by hundreds of manufacturers; thousands more work for industry suppliers and vendors. However, thousands of furniture jobs have been lost in this decade, and Toyota is an answer to many hopes and dreams.
But manufacturing a couch is different from building an automobile, so there are no guarantees that workers’ experience will help – or hurt. “Typically, manufacturing experience hasn’t been a factor in hiring,” [Toyota VP Production & Administration, David] Copenhaver said.
Actually manufacturing at Toyota is different than manufacturing at pretty much any other company, even automotive, so pretty much every new employee will need extensive training. At Toyota the employees first learn to use their brains, then their hands.
Author David Magee, who wrote “How Toyota Became No. 1,” said the entire region will benefit from the company’s presence. “A rising tide lifts all ships,” Magee said, a familiar refrain heard around these parts.
Yes it does. Anyone thinking about building a new factory? Perhaps in a couple years you’ll want to tap into an exceptionally skilled workforce in Mississippi, thanks to Toyota.