CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The latest expansion at Toyota will be a "huge undertaking," Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said Friday when announcing the move.The Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia plant in Buffalo, Putnam County, will expand production -- resulting in about 80 new jobs, according to the governor. He made the announcement Friday morning at the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce's annual summit at The Greenbrier resort.The expansion at the Buffalo plant will mean a capital investment of $90 million."In just two years' time, [Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia] team members will increase production from half a million transmissions to 740,000 transmissions each year," Tomblin said in a statement. "It's a huge undertaking, but I know they will rise to the challenge.Toyota employees' "hard work, the quality product they produce, and our state's commitment to creating a business climate that encourages the private sector to create jobs, led to this latest job growth and investment decision," the governor said.Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., led the charge to bring the Toyota plant to West Virginia. After years of negotiations, the plant opened in 1998."Once again, Toyota is proving to be one of West Virginia's biggest boosters and economic success stories, and I never miss a chance to brag on the fantastic teamworkers who make up its Buffalo plant," Rockefeller said in a statement."When I first visited with Toyota officials more than 30 years ago, I promised their investment in West Virginia would be met with the hardest and most dedicated workforce," Rockefeller said. "Today's announcement validates that promise, and I thank Toyota for their ongoing support of our state."The senator said he hosted a dinner at his Charleston home for Toyota honorary chairman Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda and Toyota Motor Manufacturing North America CEO Jim Lentz when the two were in the area to mark the 10-millionth power train to come off the Buffalo assembly line.The Putnam County plant produces power-train units for nine Toyota and Lexis models assembled in various North American plants. By early 2015, the expansion will increase six-speed automatic transmission production, assembly and machining by 20,000 units per month.
Ruth Lemmon, West Virginia Automotive and Truck Dealers Association president, said, "Those are the kind of jobs West Virginia needs.""Those 80 jobs translate into a lot of economic development for us," she said.Lemmon added that, since the plant broke ground in 1996, Toyota has been an excellent corporate citizen and community leader.Toyota invested $400 million to build the Buffalo plant, which then employed about 350 people. After continued expansion over the years, the plant now employs more than 1,300 workers."When you see a manufacturer like Toyota making such a substantial investment, it does give you reason to believe the economy is getting stronger and more stable," Lemmon said.
Steve Roberts, state Chamber of Commerce president, said the expansion is good news for all of West Virginia, not just Putnam County."This is exactly what we need to be happening in West Virginia," Roberts said. "It's clear Toyota has a real commitment to West Virginia. They want to be here and they want to invest in West Virginia."Roberts said it's important to keep listening to companies like Toyota on how to make the state welcoming for businesses."This is yet another expansion of the Toyota community to West Virginia," he said, "and West Virginians are equally committed to Toyota."Reach Caitlin Cook at email@example.com or 304-348-5113.