City Learns From Toyota Experience

February 5, 2003
Posted at: 9:00 p.m. CDT

MARION, Ark. -- Its one of the most popular car companies in the world, but it is not coming to Region 8.

On Tuesday, Toyota officials announced that it had selected a site in San Antonio, Texas, to build an $800 million truck assembly plant that will employ some 2,000 employees and add $2.4 billion to the local economy over the next decade.

State officials had hope to attract the plant to Northeast Arkansas' delta region. Local officials still have an optimistic attitude ndespite the Toyota dream being over.

"Of course we are disappointed," Marion Mayor Frank Fogleman said. "But it's been a good learning experience."

Instead of saying, "Oh, what a Feeling!" Residents and local officials are focusing on what they say were the positive parts of the recruiting experience. Ffogleman stayed in town today, while economic development officials worked on the industrial deal that's now going out of state.

In their announcement, Toyota officials said they specifically needed to build a truck facility in Texas, close to Mexico, and work on becoming the state's truck market leader.

"I got a call this morning from our economic development director that she had received the news that the plant would be located in San Antonio," Foglenman said.

State and local economic development officials say they will continue to market the large plot of land near Memphis, a major hub of distribution and worldwide business. The hope is that industries will see as a great place for an auto assembly plant or other type of production facility.

Governor Mike Huckabee, who worked to get the state to the top of Toyota's short-list released a statement today: "We can't move the borders of Arkansas closer to Mexico where Toyota feels it needs to be.

"We didn't lose the Toyota plant, we gained the confidence of knowing what it takes to play in the big leagues," Huckabee added.