October 10, 2006 - Posted at 5:29 p.m. CDT
MARION, AR -- It started as a dream several years ago to bring an automotive manufacturing plant to Northeast Arkansas. That dream was realized last week when Hino motors officially began production on auto parts for Toyota in Marion.
On Tuesday, officials from around the world celebrated what they hope will be the start of bigger things. For the Japanese manager of the new Hino motors plant in Marion, his first trip to the state immediately made him an Arkansan.
"The long rain turned the ground into mud and my car got stuck and I had to get out of my car and walk to my office," said Karl Arflack, Hino Manager of Axle Production.
Starting this week Hino began producing and assembling Toyota truck axles for the Tundra assembly plant in San Antonio. The parts plant in Marion, where the Far East meets Northeast Arkansas, is showing amazing results
"Hino coming here says to the whole world that if a major prestigious world class company is coming to Arkansas there is a reason," said Governor Mike Huckabee.
Marion received competition from cities across the country all vying to have Hino Motor's build a plant in their city. But ultimately the Japanese investors decided on Marion for one reason.
"The most important thing we could sell was the people of this state, their hospitality and their work ethic," said Gov. Huckabee.
Tuesday Hino celebrated the start of production as area dignitaries and even the president of Hino motors traveled from Japan for the ceremony. It's the start of something Hino expects to be even larger than the initial $235 million dollar investment the company has made in Marion.
"We also want to contribute 280 jobs by the end of the year and by the end of next year we'll probably be up to 450 to 500 jobs," said Arflack.
Despite getting his car stuck in the Arkansas mud the first time he visited, the Hino plant manager is happy he made the trip.
"It did not take any time for me to realize that project would be success," said Arflack.