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Mazda Toyota Manufacturing to delay production start at new plant

GREENBRIER – Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA will delay the production startup at its Limestone County plant from next spring to later in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The joint venture company, which is investing $1.6 billion in its 3.7-million-square-foot facility, said it informed state and local government officials in Alabama and key suppliers on Thursday that the pandemic is impacting “our ability to maintain critical equipment delivery schedules, creating labor shortages, and slowing construction.

“As a result, we will delay the start of production of the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant to a time period later in 2021,” the company said. “We are eager to keep the project moving forward and appreciate the ongoing support of all key stakeholders.”

Mazda Toyota also said that after a pause in construction April 4 in response to Gov. Kay Ivey’s stay-at-home order, work resumed April 7 in areas in which Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines can be met.

The company said it used the “downtime to review enhanced guidelines, evaluate site conditions and further increase safety and social-distancing efforts. As a result, any job at the site that cannot meet social distancing recommendations is temporarily suspended.”

Enhanced sanitization efforts also were put in place before any work resumed.

Asked about a new date for production startup, Mazda Toyota spokeswoman Toni Eberhart said: “I can’t confirm that information at this time.

“Given the changing nature of this pandemic, we will continue to monitor the situation to determine how this will impact our project schedule,” she said.

“We remain focused as a hometown company with a goal to provide up to 4,000 safe and sustainable jobs for north Alabama,” she said, and the company continues to recruit qualified candidates. Available opportunities are posted at MazdaToyota.com.

She said interviews have transitioned to video or phone conferencing where possible and “day of work” assessments for current candidates have been temporarily halted.

The company has said it plans to hire 4,000 employees. Eberhart said there are about 450 Mazda Toyota employees at this time.

“Current (Mazda Toyota Manufacturing) employees, except for those holding business critical positions with a requirement to provide onsite support at MTM business locations, are working remotely and will receive full pay through the week of April 13 at this time,” Eberhart said.

The estimated amount of state and local incentives for the project, including tax abatements, is about $870 million, according to a project agreement. The Morgan County Commission unanimously voted in October to commit $100,000 a year for five years toward the project in the Greenbrier area.

Commission Chairman Ray Long, who learned of the delay last week, said Mazda Toyota is facing challenges just like other projects because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s slowed everything down,” Long said. “(Mazda Toyota is) committed to this project and they would be going full speed ahead if it wasn’t for this virus.”

Toyota Boshoku America; DaikyoNishikawa US (DNUS); Y-tec Keylex Toyotetsu Alabama (YKTA); Vuteq USA; and Sanoh America are building either on-site or off-site facilities to supply components for Mazda Toyota.

Jackie Hogan, YKTA’s vice president of administration, said construction of its facility at the Mazda Toyota site has remained “close to schedule, up to now.

“We have had days that were hampered by rainfall,” she said. “The current coronavirus pandemic also created a need to pause for a few days. We worked with our contractors and safety team to improve our social distancing and other preventive measures on the site.”

Last May, YKTA, a joint venture formed between a trio of Mazda and Toyota suppliers, announced plans to invest $220 million in its facility, where it will make structural body stampings and assemblies, as well as chassis parts, and create 650 jobs.

“Certainly, as MTM delays their start, it will also delay our start of production,” Hogan said. “The impact will be a slight delay in hiring and training schedules. We are confident that we will be able to quickly adjust our schedules to support our customer.”

– From The Decatur Daily

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