Inside INdiana Business

Focus now turns to the workforce for Toyota Indiana

(Provided Photo/Toyota Indiana)

PRINCETON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana Inc. now faces the task of filling 1,400 jobs over the next two years as the company retools manufacturing lines at its plant in Gibson County to produce two electric vehicle models. The company announced Wednesday it will invest more than $800 million to equip the plant and support employee training and re-tooling at supplier facilities.

However, the effort could create a workforce challenge in a county where the unemployment rate is about 2.5%, which is well below the current state rate of 3.9%.

“Expanding our Toyota family by 1,400 is a challenge we are eager to accept,” said TMMI President Leah Curry. “This is a testament to the strong workforce in the southwest Indiana region.”

Toyota Indiana already employs about 7,300 employees. It draws workers from a 75-mile ring that radiates out from Princeton, including the city of Evansville.

“This is one of those opportunities that you want to be able to help an existing company continue to grow,” said Greg Wathen, co-chief executive officer of Evansville Regional Economic Partnership. “Obviously, companies like Toyota, don’t make these types of decisions lightly because they can deploy capital anywhere around the world. The question is, do we have all the pieces in place that make sense for them to deploy that capital here? And we believe it does.”

Wathen says large companies, like Toyota, also tap into the broader 24-county market, which includes southeast Illinois and northwest Kentucky.

“I think it speaks volumes for the kind of talent that’s here that they continue to make investments,” said Wathen.

Despite potential workforce challenges, Princeton city leaders are thrilled about Wednesday’s announcement.

“Anytime you can add 1,400 new jobs to the existing 7,500 Toyota jobs here in Gibson County, I mean, it can do nothing but create a positive impact on what we have going well,” said Mayor Greg Wright.

He says the job creation by Toyota is exponential as it will require parts suppliers to boost production and staffing.

“A lot of the subsidiaries that are suppliers to Toyota have a job force here in the county that a lot of the people maybe aren’t Toyota team members, but they’re actually working for the suppliers that are important impact to our community,” said Wright.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Curry said the company will rely in part on its high-school-focused 4T academy to train new workers.

“We just started the 4T program last year. High school students in the surrounding counties actually come here and we teach them about advanced manufacturing,” explained Curry. “Some of them can come and be production experts, some of them can be advanced manufacturing technicians or engineers. It’s a win-win-win.”

The company just announced it is expanding the geographic reach of the 4T Academy, which had been limited to high schools in Gibson County when it launched the program. Southridge High School in the Dubois County city of Huntingburg is the fourth high school to join Toyota’s on-the-job training program.

Curry says the program can lead to full-time jobs after graduation.

“We are actually showing them, bringing them in, teaching them about the opportunities that are available for a career here in manufacturing. It’s really getting the students to understand that there’s a lot of opportunities here.”

The first cohort of the 4T Academy will graduate this May. Click here to learn more about the program.