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Kentucky loses out on $1.6 billion Toyota-Mazda plant, but why?

The Georgetown Toyota plant employs more than 8,000 people and produces about 550,000 vehicles annually. Wednesday it was announced that a new Toyota-Mazda facility will be located in Alabama.
The Georgetown Toyota plant employs more than 8,000 people and produces about 550,000 vehicles annually. Wednesday it was announced that a new Toyota-Mazda facility will be located in Alabama. aslitz@herald-leader.com

Kentucky has lost out on a $1.6 billion automobile plant which would have brought thousands of jobs to the region.

Japanese automakers Toyota and Mazda are choosing to build a joint-venture auto plant in Alabama. The location of the new plant was announced Wednesday afternoon by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and company executives.

Last August, Japanese-based automakers Toyota and Mazda announced that the two companies were looking for a site to build their joint automobile plant, which would open in 2021 and eventually employ 4,000.

Following the 2017 announcement, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin said he would push hard for the facility to be located in Kentucky, WDRB reported, and mentioned 1,500 acres near Elizabethtown as being a possible site.

A government officials said the new facility in Alabama could still help Kentucky’s economy.

“While Kentucky made an aggressive and well-received pitch to locate the Toyota-Mazda plant, the decision to build in North Alabama puts many of Kentucky’s 500-plus automotive suppliers within a day’s drive,” said Jack Mazurak, communications director for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. “That’s excellent news for suppliers and their Kentucky communities in terms of potential expansions, and job creation as they join the new plant’s supplier network. We fully expect this to add more fuel to Kentucky’s already historic rate of automotive investment.”

Before Wednesday’s announcement, some officials expressed doubt that the facility would be built in Kentucky, such as Jack Conner, president of Scott County United, a group that assists companies with economic development for Scott County. Toyota’s largest manufacturing facility in located in Georgetown.

Alan Baum, an independent auto analyst in West Bloomfield, Mich., said Wednesday that Kentucky might have missed out on the new plant because of the Georgetown plant. It’s the largest employer in Scott County, employing more than 8,000 full- and part-time workers. A $1.3 billion investment was announced for the Georgetown facility about eight months ago.

“Obviously the Georgetown plant is a huge facility,” Baum said. “To the extent that the (proposed Elizabethtown) facility was relatively close to Georgetown, there might have been some concern about the labor market being strong enough to support a new plant, such as that.”

The Alabama facility will be located in a 1,252-acre tract of farmland in Huntsville, according to al.com. It is projected to produce 300,000 vehicles a year, with half being the Toyota Corolla and the rest an unspecified Mazda model.

The Georgetown plant makes about 550,000 vehicles and more than 600,000 engines a year.

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