Buyouts offered to suppliers

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 21, 2009

BALDWYN (AP) — The first Toyota supplier to announce plans for a north Mississippi location has offered buyouts to its 16 employees in Baldwyn.

Auto Parts Manufacturing Mississippi is not shutting down the plant, special counsel Dennis Cuneo emphasized.

‘‘What they hope to do is keep a few folks in maintenance until the start of production’’ in Blue Springs, he said.

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He said the buyout offers have been planned for some time. ‘‘This has nothing to do with the rumors that the Prius will be built in California,’’ Cuneo added.

Barbara McDaniel, a spokeswoman for Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America, has denied the rumors.

Citing an uncertain economy and a downturn in auto sales, Toyota announced in December that it was postponing production in Blue Springs indefinitely.

‘‘Essentially, there was nothing to do at the (parts) plant,’’ Cuneo said.

The 400,000-square-foot plant is all but complete. Cuneo said work continues on the paint shop, which should be finished in October.

Toyota Auto Body, APMM’s parent company, announced in mid-2007 that it was looking for a location in north Mississippi.

At its its groundbreaking in December 2007, officials talked about a $200 million investment and a plant that would employ 400.

There, officials said it was going to invest $200 million and employ 400 at the plant.

‘‘They still intend to do that, as well as have it serve as Toyota Auto Body’s North American headquarters,’’ said David Rumbarger, CEO of the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo.

Toyota Auto Body, based in Kariya-city, Japan, is 56 percent owned by Toyota Motor Corp. The company makes minivans, SUVs, trucks and other vehicles, including the Prius, for Toyota.

Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal,