GEORGETOWN — Toyota announced plans Tuesday to expand production of engines at its sprawling plant in Georgetown, a move that will create about 80 jobs, though they will likely be filled by people already working at the plant.
The move highlights a lesser-known part of the plant. In addition to the two vehicle assembly lines that build the Camry, Avalon and Venza models, the company's largest North American factory builds four-cylinder and V6 engines and a variety of auto parts. In 2011, the plant built 415,487 engines including 242,394 with four cylinders.
This expansion will see Toyota increase four-cylinder production in Georgetown by more than 100,000 units beginning in August 2013. Toyota also has engine plants in Alabama and West Virginia.
"Everyone knows we've had a tough three to four years, but we didn't lay down during that time," North American manufacturing executive Steve St. Angelo told guests and media during a news conference. "Today's another good example that we're back and we're moving forward again."
The engines built on site are used for the models made in Georgetown. Some of the added capacity will be used for the Camry and Camry Hybrid, but some engines will be shipped to Toyota's plant in Woodstock, Ontario, where the RAV4 is assembled.
Plant president Wil James said the added capacity could mean even more projects.
"We're now at the cusp of even better days," he said.
Plant spokesman Rick Hesterberg said some of the approximately 80 additional full-time workers will come from the pool of temporary employees the automaker uses to deal with fluctuations in demand.
The company also expects to use transfers from other departments and does not expect to hire directly from the outside for the positions. To learn about applying for a temporary job, visit Toyotageorgetown.com/careers.
In total, the additional workers will raise the plant's full-time permanent staff to about 6,700. The plant also has about 1,100 temporary employees.
Toyota estimates the expansion will cost roughly $32 million. At its most recent meeting, the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved $6.5 million in tax incentives for the project in a deal that requires the company to create 86 jobs.
In general, when a company accepts the tax incentive, it may keep that amount of money, which it otherwise would pay in taxes, assuming it fulfills the terms of the deal.
Gov. Steve Beshear, who attended Tuesday's announcement, said the expansion was another example of Toyota's commitment to the state. He recalled being present at the groundbreaking for the plant more than two decades ago when he served as lieutenant governor under Gov. Martha Layne Collins.
"It was a euphoric day that day," he said, "but I have to admit to you that if any of us had any idea what the Toyota investment in Kentucky would become, that euphoria would have been 10 to 20 times greater than what it was."