Arkansas Hopes Air Quality Worries Won't Stigmatize State

MARCH 1, 2007 - Posted at 7:38 a.m. CST

LITTLE ROCK, AR - State officials say they hope worries over air quality that may have kept Toyota from putting a plant at Marion in Crittenden County won't stigmatize the well-connected piece of real estate.

Four railroads, two cross-country interstate highways and the continent's longest river virtually abut the 1,750-acre megaproject site that has been billed for years as Arkansas' best hope for an automobile assembly plant.

But when Toyota announced Tuesday that it would build a Highlander sport utility vehicle plant near Tupelo, Mississippi, the company said it was concerned about air-quality standards around Marion, a neighbor of Memphis, Tennessee.

Kay Brockwell, Marion's economic development director, said it's very difficult to get those air pollutants out of Memphis.

Though disappointed, Brockwell and U.S. Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor were determined to move ahead.  Pryor said he doesn't think Toyota's decision tainted the site permanently.  He said that just because Arkansas missed this one doesn't mean the state has missed out on a possible auto plant forever.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)