AP NEWS

Expansion, more jobs coming to Toyota’s plant in Putnam County

March 15, 2019

BUFFALO, W.Va. — A doubling of one production line and the addition of 123 jobs were announced Thursday by officials at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing facility in Buffalo in Putnam County.

Leah Curry, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia (TMMWV), said the Buffalo plant plans to double its hybrid transaxle capacity, from 120,000 units per year currently to 240,000 units annually by 2021.

Curry said the total investment would be $111 million in the West Virginia plant, which includes a building expansion and the addition of the 123 jobs.

“The building expansion will add over 72,000 square feet under roof at this facility,” she said. “Currently we have about 1.9 million square feet under roof, so this will take us to 1.972 million square feet.”

Curry said construction will start next month and is expected to be completed by July 2020.

“Overall, the Buffalo plant represents $1.4 billion total investment to date by Toyota,” she said.

Curry said doubling the production of hybrid transaxles in West Virginia solidifies the Buffalo facility’s role in producing next generation engines and transmissions that will drive the future of Toyota’s advanced mobility technology.

In 2017, Curry announced Toyota’s plan to produce its first American-made hybrid transaxles at the Buffalo facility. She explained at the time that in hybrid vehicles, the transaxle takes the place of a conventional transmission.

“The hybrid transaxle allows the vehicle to shift from electric to internal combustion power and enables the vehicle to generate electricity through regenerative braking,” she said. “It includes a motor, generator and power split device.”

There is not yet a specific timetable for when hiring for the new jobs will begin, though officials said Thursday that it could possibly start by early next year.

West Virginia Department of Commerce Secretary Ed Gaunch said the announcement shows the confidence Toyota has in the state and its workforce.

“In 1996, when Toyota first announced it was coming to West Virginia, the company promised 300 new jobs,” Gaunch said. “I remember being excited to hear about it back then, but who knew in 1996 that 23 years later that investment would reach $1.4 billion and 1,800 jobs. This is wonderful news for Buffalo, Putnam County, the region and the state of West Virginia.”

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice was scheduled to appear, but instead provided a prepared statement about the Thursday’s announcement.

“There is so much good that comes along with this expansion of our Toyota plant, and the very best part is knowing that it will bring over 100 new jobs to our state for hard-working West Virginians,” Justice said in the statement. “I’m a busy guy and I’ve always said that if we can help our businesses grow, there’s no limit to what we can do.”

Buffalo Mayor Conrad Cain, speaking at the announcement Thursday, said it’s always a great day when new jobs are announced.

“This means more good jobs and maybe more people moving in, which will also attract more business and economic development as well,” he said.

Curry said Thursday’s announcement is part of Toyota’s overall plans to add nearly 600 new jobs nationwide and new investments of nearly $750 million.

“By 2021, Toyota will invest nearly $13 billion in its U.S. operations,” Curry said.

Toyota officials also announced that hybrid versions of the company’s RAV4 and Lexus ES will be produced in Georgetown, Kentucky, for the first time. They also said there will be production capacity increases and building expansions at Toyota’s plants in Alabama, Missouri and Tennessee, in addition to those in West Virginia and Kentucky.

“These latest investments represent even more examples of our long-term commitment to build where we sell,” said Jim Lentz, chief executive officer for Toyota Motor North America, said in a news release. “By boosting our U.S. manufacturing footprint, we can better serve our customers and dealers and position our manufacturing plants for future success with more domestic capacity.”

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter at @FredPaceHD.