Arkansas Officials Reviewing Options After Latest Toyota Snub

FEBRUARY 27, 2007 - Posted at 10:57 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Arkansas was passed over for neighboring Mississippi in the hunt for a $1.3 billion auto plant.  Arkansas economic officials say they're reviewing their options and will try again to lure a large industrial complex to the state.

Marion Mayor Frank Fogleman says he is disappointed his Crittenden County city won't be home to the Toyota SUV plant.  The company announced this morning that it would build a site near Tupelo, Mississippi.

Arkansas House Speaker Benny Petrus says he understood that Toyota was concerned about air quality in the region.

The state has been monitoring Crittenden County's ozone levels since it was declared out-of-compliance with federal standards in 2004.  Crittenden County's air quality is affected by its proximity to Memphis.

Crittenden County was classified last year by the Environmental Protection Agency as an Economic Development Zone under the Clean Air Act.  The designation allows the county, in some cases, to follow less-restrictive air quality guidelines.

Today's announcement was the second economic development setback for northeast Arkansas, which was dropped from consideration for a $3 billion steel mill.  Alabama and Louisiana are finalists for the ThyssenKrupp AG plant.  Arkansas had hoped to convince the company to build its mill near Osceola.

The announcement also marks the second time that Toyota has passed on Marion as the site for an assembly plant.  In 2002, the company chose San Antonio, Texas over Marion as the site for a plant that manufactures Tundra pick-up trucks.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)