If you're interested in working at the new Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. plant in Limestone County, a company official on Tuesday said hiring managers are interested in you.
Mark Brazeal, vice president of administration for the $1.6-billion plant, made several job recruitment pitches during his remarks at the annual meeting of the Limestone County Economic Development Association. In addition to issuing a call-out for workers, he offered construction updates on the project, which is set to begin production in 2021.
The joint venture will have the capacity to build 300,000 vehicles annually, with the production split evenly between the two companies in order to produce a yet-to-be revealed Mazda crossover model and the Toyota Corolla.
The MTMUS project is obligated, per state incentive agreements, to hire at least 3,600 workers for the project, Brazeal said. However, he explained up to 4,000 team members could be hired, while hundreds more could find work at on-site suppliers.
As previously announced, the rate of pay at MTMUS is based on experience and skill level, ranging from $23.50 to $33 per hour. When the project was first announced in January 2018, officials said the average salary per worker would be $50,000, which is exclusive of benefits.
Brazeal cited a study that said for every one direct manufacturing job created by Toyota, six other spinoff or indirect jobs are created. He said the MTMUS project would have an annual payroll of $180 million.
“Our team members will spend their hard-earned money regionally on buying entertainment, food, homes and vehicles,” he said. “That's a very positive impact we expect to have here in the Limestone County region.”
He said the spinoff has already been evident with the April 10 announcement of the Toyota Boshoku plant, which plans to build a $55-million facility at the Breeding Industrial Park in Athens. Last week, supplier DaikyoNishikawa US announced it would build a $110-million facility to serve the plant.
MTMUS is working with Alabama Industrial Development Training to find suitable workers. Brazeal estimated as many as 30,000 resumes and applications would be received by prospective employees.
Hiring began in April, but he expects that process to ramp up in 2020 and continue through 2021 and 2022. There are plans to hire 102 skilled workers and 15 team leaders this year, with some of those beginning as early as July 1.
“We are earnestly recruiting at this moment,” Brazeal said.
Team leaders will be sent to Japan for three months of training at one of Toyota's two facilities in Hiroshima and Toyota City. Those team members will undergo Global Standards Training, which Brazeal said allows members from overseas affiliates to work alongside shop floor leaders to gain knowledge.
“We adopted Global Standards Training as a means to develop new shop leaders,” he said. "We want them to learn the Mazda-Toyota mindset on how to manufacture and learn the people development culture. We believe this is the best opportunity.”
Building the plant
Ground was broken on the MTMUS site in November. Despite some delays because of a rainy winter, site work is now complete. Brazeal said crews worked weekends to bring the project back up to schedule.
Another temporary snag in construction, the discovery of an endangered fish, was also referenced by Brazeal. The federally protected spring pygmy sunfish inhabits a creek complex adjacent to the site.
He explained MTMUS worked with officials with the state, city of Huntsville and the Center for Biological Diversity to find a way to protect the species.
“We're fully committed to protecting the fish from this point forward,” Brazeal said.
Three million cubic yards of Alabama red clay was graded to prepare the site and 150,000 cubic feet of gravel was poured as part of the foundation. Last month, the first steel beam was erected at the site. Brazeal explained the project will require 1,600 steel beams, which equates to 18,000 tons of steel.
The MTMUS campus sits on 2,400 acres, though Brazeal explained the manufacturing plant would not occupy the entire space. On 400 acres to the north, a solar panel farm will be built.
“We're working with TVA on some vendors on the finer details of that,” he said.
The campus will represent the largest Toyota site in the U.S. It will also feature a rail yard and a test track at the east end of the site.
Brazeal said the project wouldn't be possible without partnerships at the state and local level. At its core, the basis of the project is partnership. He said the joint venture's goal is to combine the wisdom and technology of both companies to produce high-quality cars at high efficiency.
“The objective for Toyota is to learn from other companies, even though Toyota is one of the largest companies in the world,” he said. “We have a great partner to learn from with Mazda.”
He also thanked the state for its help to improve infrastructure around the facility, particularly the announcement that Interstate 565 would be widened from County Line Road to Interstate 65. Brazeal said those logistic improvements would ensure 4,000 to 6,000 people get to and from the site on a daily basis.
The work of high schools and colleges was also praised, as Brazeal said that's where workforce training begins. He thanked Limestone County Schools Superintendent Tom Sisk and Vince Green of the Limestone County Career Technical Center.
“Shortly after our groundbreaking, we had the chance to visit the (tech center) and we were so impressed that we wanted to truly go ahead and begin a working relationship,” Brazeal said.
Limestone County Schools was one of six area school systems to share in a $250,000 grant announced by MTMUS officials at the groundbreaking. Since then, students have painted Toyota Corollas that are now being used at an AIDT hands-on assessment center in Huntsville.
“We strongly believe in building our future pipeline of team members, and we believe it starts in high school, not Day One on the job,” Brazeal said.