Sunday, April 16, 2006

Toyota considers auto plant in Va.

Carlos Santos
Richmond Times-Dispatch

RICHMOND, Va. - Toyota has approached Virginia about locating an automobile-assembly plant in the state, a Kaine administration official confirmed yesterday.

The Japanese automaker is considering a site near Roanoke, as well as sites in North Carolina, Tennessee and Arkansas, for its eighth assembly plant in North America, The New York Times reported yesterday.

Toyota does not have a timetable for making a decision, but its directors could receive a recommendation from executives in the United States this summer.

Virginia's appearance on the list came a day after the Ford Motor Co. announced it would close its truck plant in Norfolk in 2008, putting 2,400 people out of work.

The Virginia site became more attractive to Toyota after Ford announced it would close its Norfolk plant, company executives said.

Toyota's newest assembly plant, in San Antonio, is a $750 million investment that will employ more than 4,000 workers, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

Roanoke Valley officials contacted yesterday were unaware of Toyota's interest.

"But I hope it's true. It would be wonderful," said Phil Sparks, head of the Roanoke Valley Economic Development Partnership.

Wayne G. Strickland, executive director of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, said a Toyota assembly plant in the Roanoke area would be logical.

"We have some Japanese and other firms in the area that manufacture various parts for cars," he said. "It would be a boon to our area."

The New York Times News Service contributed to this report.

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