Drake State Holds Signing Day for Students Entering Mazda Toyota Program

Drake State Community & Technical College held its first Signing Day Ceremony, but it didn’t have anything to do with athletics.

But a pair of students did commit to going to the next level in their education and careers.

Darise Andrews and Jack Crowley signed on the dotted line and put on their ballcaps as they committed to apprenticeships with Mazda Toyota Manufacturing. They are the first Drake State students to enter the program.

Drake State and Mazda Toyota Manufacturing  developed the apprenticeship program to support workforce needs at the  automotive production plant and provide students with work-based learning  opportunities. 

As student-interns, Andrews and Crowley will attend classes at Drake State two days a week and work at the Mazda Toyota plan three days. They will also be assigned mentors.


Toyota Engine Plant Has 150 Job Openings in Production and Maintenance

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama is recruiting for 150 positions to meet immediate production and skilled maintenance needs.

The job openings are part of the Huntsville engine plant’s $830 million expansion, originally announced in 2019. In a news release, the company said assembly lines will increase annual engine production to 900,000 with 1,800 total employees by the end of 2021.

“Toyota is looking for outstanding individuals who like to problem solve and work as part of a team,” said April
Mason, TMMAL general manager. “Manufacturing experience for production positions is not required because we train employees on our processes using Toyota Way principles. Skilled maintenance jobs require experience or an associate’s degree in industrial maintenance.”

Starting wages are $17.38 an hour for production employees and $26.31 for skilled maintenance, with an additional premium for 2nd shift. All positions include health insurance and paid time off.

To apply online visit (for production) www.toyotamanufacturingjobs.com/al-production and (for skilled maintenance) www.toyotamanufacturingjobs.com/al-skilled-maintenance.

Toyota employees represent various backgrounds and previous job experience.

“Our focus on diversity stimulates creative solutions for continuously improving our operations,” said Mason. “We need more people to join our incredible team.”

TMMAL was recently named Supplier of the Year by the Alabama Automotive Manufacturing Association and is Toyota’s only facility globally to produce 4-cylinder, V6 and V8 engines under one roof.

Huntsville-based Toyota Alabama Named Alabama Automotive Manufacturing Association Supplier of the Year

The Alabama Automotive Manufacturing Association recently named Toyota Alabama as a 2020 Supplier of the Year. The award recognizes manufacturing suppliers for outstanding achievements in areas such as innovation, quality, safety and commitment to the community.  

“Toyota’s incredible response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has gone above and beyond to address the  situation, develop plans and quickly adapt to changes,” said Ron Davis, president of AAMA. “They engaged  with their peers from across the globe to develop creative solutions to ensure a safe work environment for  employees. Toyota then shared this knowledge across the state to help schools and businesses also prepare  for return.”  

Additionally, to support local healthcare facilities and first responders with personal protective equipment, the Huntsville plant produced and distributed 10,000 commercial grade face shields.  

“Our ability to produce face shields in mass quantities is a testament to our incredibly skilled workforce and passion for sharing knowledge to meet community needs,” said Larry Deutscher, Toyota Alabama general manager of Manufacturing Support.  

The Huntsville plant produces approximately 700,000 (4-cylinder, V6 and V8) engines per year to Toyota vehicle assembly plants across North America; it is the only Toyota plant to make all three engines. In 2021, production will increase to more than 900,000 engines per year upon completion of the plant’s  latest expansion, bringing its total investment to $1.2 billion.  

To help inspire the next generation for a career in STEM-based fields, Toyota also recently launched a virtual  education hub at www.TourToyota.com with an immersive experience and chance to visit U.S. manufacturing facilities. The hub includes a series of free STEM-based lessons and curriculum through Toyota USA Foundation partners, virtual field trips and more.  

Year-to-Date: Huntsville Area has Seen More Than $1 Billion in New Capital Investment and 850 New Jobs

Did someone say there is an economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Well, the facts on the ground do not bear that out here, according to the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce. 

“With COVID-19, this has certainly been a challenging year, but in spite of all that is happening, Huntsville still continues to see job growth in all parts of our City,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “Whether it’s Torch Technologies in South Huntsville, Dynetics in Cummings Research Park, or TriRx in Chase Industrial Park, there are buildings going up and sites being delivered.

“When you combine that with the ongoing work at North Huntsville Industrial Park with Facebook and Toyota and the numerous projects at Mazda Toyota, it’s a remarkable statement to the resiliency of the Huntsville market and its industries.”

Year-to-date economic growth figures show the Huntsville metropolitan region has accrued more than $1 billion in capital investments from new commercial projects, company expansions, and from companies that have increased the scope of previously announced projects in 2020. That growth will also result in 852 new jobs across the region.

“Throughout 2020, Madison County and Huntsville have continued the work in bringing new and innovative business and industry to our community while also supporting expansions among our industry partners,” said Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong. “Our diverse economy continues to be robust year after year. With a focus on workforce development the future of the Rocket City and Redstone Arsenal will continue to drive the economy of Alabama and southern Tennessee.”

The bulk of the growth will come from four large Huntsville company projects and four smaller, but significant, projects this year. However, due to coronavirus restrictions limiting celebratory groundbreakings, grand openings and open house events, many of these projects have been operating under the public radar.

“We want to celebrate every expansion, but this year, it has been challenging to do that in a safe way,” said Lucia Cape, the Chamber’s senior vice president of economic development. “These companies are important to our community and to the people they employ, and we want to recognize their growth.” 

Rendering shows the Freedom-Torch-Invariant facility from the south parking lot.

Torch Technologies leads with $32.3 million in investment on two recent expansion projects that will bring 120 new jobs to Huntsville. 

First announced in April 2018, Torch has completed its Technology Integration and Prototyping Center (TIPC) with two-story office space and an attached 10,000-square-foot high-bay facility at the corner of Chris Drive and Vermont Road in South Huntsville. Constructed by its sister company, Freedom Real Estate & Capital, the center includes a 35,000 square-foot lab and solutions facility.

According to board member and Torch President & CEO John Watson the new facility will allow Torch to take on projects of greater complexity.

“These projects will range from developing instruments that will completely change how warhead testing is accomplished, to re-engineering products that protect our nation,” Watson said.

The second Torch expansion is part of a partnership with the Invariant, a Huntsville-based engineering services and software development company founded in 2001. 

Invariant President David Anderson: “We have been neighbors with Freedom Real Estate and Torch Technologies for several years and look forward to continuing those relationships.” (Rendering/Invariant)

Invariant is investing $430,000 in a 92,000 square-foot facility as part of a mixed-use facility being built by Freedom in South Huntsville. 

The facility will consist of office, research, development, and manufacturing space. They quietly broke ground in May and expect the facility to be complete by next summer. Invariant’s growth will produce 23 new jobs.

“We are excited to grow and expand into this new facility that will provide our employees the resources needed to ensure quality services and products are delivered to our customers,” said Invariant President David Anderson. “We are proud to be a part of Huntsville’s continuing success. We have been neighbors with Freedom Real Estate and Torch Technologies for several years and look forward to continuing those relationships.”

Japan-based freight and logistics provider Nippon Express USA will invest $19.1 million in its location on the campus of Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A. over the next two years. They expect to hire more than 100 employees over that period.

After being acquired by Leidos in January, Dynetics will add up to 200 jobs associated with weapon development work, and has hired hundreds of people this year in support of the Human Landing System and other projects. The expansion brings the company’s local employment to 2,740. 

Those four expansions represent a total of 510 new jobs and $71 million in investment.

Four more companies, Aldez, TriRx Pharmaceuticals, Palco Telecommunications and Ridgeview Industries have also significantly expanded in Huntsville.

Aldez is an inventory management and distribution company and has a new facility near the sprawling Mazda Toyota Manufacturing facility. (Photo/Aldez)

Aldez is an inventory management and distribution company with a focus on the automotive industry. Its operations in the SouthPoint Business Park, a couple of miles from the Mazda Toyota plant, will provide maintenance, repair and operations crib management and distribution center services for the MTMUS facility.

“This new, state-of-the-art facility is a strategic move that will allow us to serve MTMUS manufacturing’s newest automotive facility in Huntsville, Limestone County, and enable further growth with their supplier base,” said Aldez COO Mike Byrne. 

“These economic development projects have changed the future of our county by their investments and job creation,” said Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly. “The opportunities provided to our community through these projects will have a lasting impact for years to come.”

TriRx Pharmaceutical Services celebrated its one-year anniversary in Huntsville in May. According to Timothy C. Tyson, chairman and CEO, the Huntsville Liquids, Creams and Ointments Facility has grown from a small number of employees to more than 250 people as of June. 

“We would like to thank our employees, our customers, and our community for their amazing support,” said Tyson. “We continue to be focused on and dedicated to the patients we serve. This has been an exciting year accented by growth with a passion for delivering on our commitment to our customers. And we have just begun.”

Palco Telecommunications, a post-sales supply chain management company started in Huntsville in 1986; and Ridgeview Industries, Inc., a metal stamping and welded assemblies’ manufacturer for automotive OEM, have also among the announced expansions in Huntsville.

“It is exciting to see these quality organizations continuing to grow, building off of their previous successes and adding even more jobs in our community,” said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. “I am excited about the opportunities these companies bring for our region as we continue to grow together.” 

Toyota Revs Up E-Learning Support in Madison County With Donation, Launch of Virtual Learning Hub

As virtual learning continues across the area, many students are still in need of laptops and Internet access to complete schoolwork. 

To help meet the need, Huntsville City Schools, Madison City Schools and Madison County Schools will receive $200,000 from the Toyota USA Foundation for devices and Internet access to help students with distance learning. 

“This is an exciting announcement for schools, teachers and students across our community,” said Elizabeth Fleming, The Schools Foundation Executive Director. “COVID-19 has strained school budgets tremendously as districts plan for in-person and remote learning for more than 55,000 students.

“The silver lining is seeing the community support for our schools and Toyota has been a tremendous partner in education from day one.” 

The funding announced today is part of a national effort to help more than 350,000 students gain access to virtual learning in 13 states where Toyota has operations. 

“All students deserve equal access to education,” said April Mason, Toyota Alabama general manager. “The foundation typically supports STEM, but the pandemic has exposed deeper issues that are a barrier to good education.” 

Toyota also debuted an education hub, providing virtual tours, fields trips, STEM-based lessons, and more. The community can virtually visit Toyota Alabama and step into the future to discover how Toyota is building a mobile society. 

Education hub resources are free and available to the public by visiting Tour Toyota Education Hub

Food Bank of North Alabama Receives $50,000 Grant from Mazda Foundation

The Mazda Foundation announced a $50,000 grant to the Food Bank of North Alabama to help the organization meet unprecedented demand for food caused by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will enable the Food Bank of North Alabama to serve 350,000 meals to residents across several North Alabama counties.

The award announced today is the second emergency donation that the Mazda Foundation has made to the Food Bank of North Alabama since the pandemic began in March. In total, the foundation has awarded $94,000 to the Food Bank of North Alabama this year, signifying its commitment to be a strong partner in the neighborhoods in which Mazda manufactures and sells its vehicles.

“The Food Bank of North Alabama is very appreciative of this generous funding from the Mazda Foundation as we seek to respond to the growing number of people seeking food assistance, especially families who have never needed help before,” said Shirley Schofield, executive director of the Food Bank of North Alabama.

“The pandemic has created enormous need in communities across the country,” said Jeff Guyton, president of Mazda North American Operations and chairman of the Mazda Foundation (USA), Inc. “Addressing a fundamental need like food security is a clear expression of the Mazda Foundation’s guiding principle that what matters most is one another.”

The award to the Food Bank of North Alabama is one of nine grant awards that the Mazda Foundation made this month to address food insecurity in six major metropolitan areas across the United States. In total, the grants will enable the awardees to serve an estimated 730,000 meals in the next 12 months.

“Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is committed to serving as a hometown company in our North Alabama Community,” said Masashi Aihara, president of Mazda Toyota Manufacturing. “We appreciate the ongoing support of this commitment demonstrated by donations to important nonprofit partners such as the Food Bank of North Alabama by our parent companies, Mazda and Toyota.”

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Makes Additional $830M Investment for Technology, Training Programs

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing announced Thursday an additional $830 million investment to incorporate more cutting-edge manufacturing technologies to its production lines and provide enhanced training to its workforce of up to 4,000 employees.

Construction continues on the massive $2.311 billion Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant. (Photo/MTM)

“This newest investment by our partners at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing shows the company’s continued confidence in the ability of our community to provide a strong, skilled workforce to meet the demands for quality and reliability,” said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. “We look forward to the day when the first vehicles roll off the line.”

Total funding contributed to the development of the state-of-the-art facility is now $2.311 billion, up from the $1.6 billion originally announced in 2018.

“We are excited to learn of this additional investment being made by Mazda Toyota Manufacturing,” said Limestone County Commission Chairman Collin Daly. “We continue to be grateful to MTM for their belief in our county and look forward to our partnership with them for many years to come.” 

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing made an additional $830 million investment to incorporate more cutting-edge manufacturing technologies to its production lines and provide enhanced training to its workforce. (Photo/MTM)

The investment accommodates production line enhancements made to improve manufacturing processes supporting the Mazda vehicle and design changes to the yet-to-be announced Toyota SUV that will both be produced at the plant.

The new facility will have the capacity to produce up to 150,000 Mazda crossover vehicles and up to 150,000  of the new Toyota SUV each year. 

MTM continues to target up to 4,000 new jobs and has hired approximately 600 employees to date, with plans to resume accepting applications for production positions later this year. Construction of the plant continues, with 75-100 percent of the roofing, siding, floor slabs, ductwork, fire protection and electrical completed. 

“Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is proud to call Alabama home,” said Mark Brazeal, MTM vice president of administration said. “Through strong support from our state and local partners, we have been able to further incorporate cutting-edge manufacturing technologies, provide world-class training for team members and develop the highest quality production processes.

“As we prepare for the start of production next year, we look forward to developing our future workforce and serving as a hometown company for many years to come.” 



Toyota Alabama Steps Closer to Increased Engine Production

Toyota Alabama achieved two significant milestones this month as part of its $288 million expansion announced in March 2019.

Upon completion in 2021, the plant will add 450 jobs and represent a $1.2 billion investment that solidifies the Huntsville facility as the automaker’s largest engine producer in North America. 

Milestones include the start of production for the all-new, redesigned 4-cylinder engine, and the closing in of the plant’s 150,000 square-foot V6 engine assembly line. 

“These milestones represent significant achievements and further demonstrate Toyota’s long-term commitment to build where we sell,” said Dave Finch, Toyota Alabama president. “By boosting production capacity and flexibility, our dedicated work force can better serve customers and position our operations for stability and future success.” 

Toyota Alabama supplies engines for one-third of all Toyota vehicles assembled in the U.S. The latest expansion is the plant’s fifth since it began engine production in 2003; annual engine capacity will increase 34 percent to 900,000 and total employment will top 1,800. 

This investment is part of a broader commitment from Toyota to invest $13 billion in its U.S. operations over a five-year period through 2021. To date, Toyota has committed nearly $9 billion of the announced total; cumulative direct investment in the U.S. exceeds $28.4 billion

Auto Dealerships Driven to Survive During an Economic Storm

There is an old adage that says what doesn’t destroy us, makes us stronger.

Deemed an essential business by Gov. Kay Ivey, car dealerships and their service departments have been steadfast in making the best of a bad situation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most of them have cut hours of operation; they have had to make a variety of adjustments to their daily operations; and they have been steadfast about finding ways to keep their employees working, whether with the help of the Paycheck Protection Program or by sheer will.

All of them reported a drop in car sales in the early days of the shutdown, but their resilience is paying off as most are reporting a rebound.

The Huntsville Business Journal checked in with several car dealerships to find out what it has been like riding out a pandemic in the midst of a massive economic storm, while most of their customers are sheltered at home. Their flexibility, adaptability and entrepreneurial spirits truly stand out!

Landers McLarty Automotive Group

Frank Williams, Executive Manager and Managing Partner of Landers McLarty Automotive Group, said they have an incredible business, so he feels they have an obligation to the community, their customers, and their employees to make whatever adjustments are needed to support them.

“I have focused more on how as a community leader, we can sustain the livelihood of our employees and protect their well-being,” Williams said. “It’s been an adjustment, but it makes you think about priorities which brings you closer to your employees, closer to your family, and it makes you look instead at the positives while forcing you to prioritize. If we do that, we will come out on the right side of this.”

Yes business has been off about 40 percent but he doesn’t look at it from a profit and loss perspective.

“Technology lets us create platforms that provide what the customers want, as opposed to what we want, and that is a plus,” he said. “I don’t focus on the negative. I am using the situation to look for ways to do business better for our consumers, and technology has allowed us to do that.”

If a customer doesn’t want to come into the dealership, they have a social distancing tent set up outside,” Williams said. “If they want to do it all online, they have created another platform for that. If a customer doesn’t want to leave home, they implemented a pick-up and delivery service to support that.

“Everybody is being hurt so looking at it from a profit and loss standpoint isn’t as important as what we do to adjust our cleaning so people feel comfortable coming to work; and making sure our actions as leaders help sustain people and their families.

“The national media focuses on the losses, but we have not made a single cut. We see a lot of positives with our employees stepping up. We want everybody to be happy and I think we have created what will be a new way of doing business.”

Ray Pearman Lincoln  

“We are open every day and we have not had a single layoff,” said Paige Pearman-Sandlin, general manager at Ray Pearman Lincoln. “We saw a dip in car sales to about half what we normally see, but people are still out looking; our service department has remained steady; and we have seen an uptick in the number of people setting appointments to see or test drive a vehicle, as opposed to just dropping by.”

Ray Pearman Lincoln practices safe pickup and delivery. (Photo/Paige Pearman Sandlin)

She said the changes the dealership has made operationally have not been substantially disruptive.

“Some people are wearing masks, but not everybody; and our employees are ready to put one on if the customer is wearing one or inquires about I,” she said. “We are not shaking hands and we have propped open all the doors, so no one has to turn a doorknob. We are very cautious about common touchpoints and we have a company who comes out and spray disinfects the building while our employees are constantly cleaning and sanitizing their work areas.”

She said they can set up virtual test drives but if a customer wants to physically drive the car, they can do so alone. If they request a sales rep, everyone wears masks and gloves.

They also have a designated pick-up and delivery driver who wears disposable gloves, and they wrap the steering wheel. They put the keys in a velvet bag and leave them for the owner so there is no direct contact.

“We were actually ready for the shutdown in terms of being able to process a lot of the car buying steps online since we have been doing that for a while, but I think this has helped us get better at it,” said Sandlin.

Lexus of Huntsville

Lexus of Huntsville has not only remained open through the entire shutdown, but we have maintained our full hours in both car sales and in our service department,” said Dennis Davis, managing director of the dealership. “Our service department waiting room is open and we are in full compliance with social distancing requirements as set by CDC guidelines.”

Davis said they originally furloughed only two employees, but they called both back when businesses across the board reopened May 19.

“Compared to the weeks or months before COVID hit in mid-March, car sales were off somewhat, but the good news is because Lexus was quick to cut interest rates to 0 percent for the first time in recent history on some models, with others offering six months of no payments, it is the an excellent time to buy that new or certified pre-owned vehicle,” said Davis.

He also said if people are hesitant about taking test drives, he guarantees all cars are disinfected before and after each test drive, and they are using steering wheel covers to prevent any spread of the virus or other germs.

“Our main focus throughout this situation has been to keep customers and employees as safe as possible by following the guidelines set by the CDC.”

Bill Penney Automotive Group

“Prior to March 16, Bill Penney Toyota was having record, record month – such a great month it was unbelievable,” said Hunter Johnson, general manager at Bill Penney Toyota. “On March 16, we started hearing rumblings something is about to happen and when the NBA shut down, it hit us hard. Car sales dropped 30 to 40 percent.”

Unwilling to let dread settle in on their employees and thinking the safest thing was not to have as many people in every department, Johnson and owner Zach Penney pulled the leadership team together and produced a video for all 250 employees. They took the store to half-staff with no one laid off, staggering everyone three days on and four days off.

“The first 2 weeks of April, business went down almost 70 percent, but we manufactured jobs for our employees doing everything from cleaning and sanitizing to doing work around the store we had been putting off like painting and home improvements.

“Since reopening May 4, we brought everyone back on … we have done really well and getting close to normalcy,” he said. “Our used car department in April had the best April in 56 years, and where the ratio of new to used cars is usually 7 to 1, it is now 1 to 1.”

They have also been there to help the public and to respond to customer calls. Throughout the crisis, the dealership has been going to customer homes to pick up the cars, even if all they needed was an oil change, and delivered it back to them following CDC guidelines for social distancing, wearing gloves and covering the steering wheel. This popular valet service will become part of regular business going forward,

The dealership uses a Quickpage system consisting of a video and a taped virtual test drive. If customers still want to test drive it themselves, the staff wipes it down, adds covers to the steering wheel and delivers it to the customer for 24 hours.

“We are also doing ‘payment distancing’. Toyota is offering zero percent financing with no payment for six months and people are taking advantage of it,” said Johnson. “We have always sold cars online, but we are taking it a step forward and emailing paperwork with e-contracting, which will cut hours off the car buying process.”

Smith Infiniti

Justin Smith, executive manager for Smith Infiniti, said April was nonexistent in terms of new car sales but used cars and the parts and service department have kept the wheels rolling through the entire shutdown. Ironically, his father’s dealership, Jimmy Smith Buick GMC in Athens, was selling so many cars they were close to running out of inventory.

“The imports were slower pushing out special financing than the domestics and I think that has been the difference, but I admit we were down a lot more than I expected going into this,” he said. “Our parts and service department has remained steady at around 75 percent and while they have carried us through April, we have sold more cars between the first and 15th of May than we did the whole month of April, and we are beginning to start seeing some traffic again.”

He said adjusting to sales in the time of COVID has been somewhat strange. The instinct is to see someone on the lot looking and to approach them with a handshake, but his sales staff is learning to adjust to how to approach people. He said many people, especially those wearing masks do not want to come inside and they are all social distancing, so it has been a challenge.

“It is sometimes hard to do business that way, but I think once people hear from the government that they have this thing under control that will change,” he said. “I have to say though that traffic has been twice as heavy the first two weeks of May than it was the entire month of April.”

On a lighter note, Smith said he feels like he is back in college with all the daily webinars.

“I sit in on webinars sometimes it seems all day,” he laughs. “The NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association), the ADAA (Automobile Dealers Association of Alabama), Infinity keeping us up-to-date on their rollouts, and even a webinar from an accounting firm teaching us the PPP.

Century Automotive Group

Century Automotive has remained open throughout the pandemic but owners George and Tracy Jones immediately put a plan in place to protect their customers and employees.

“Our main company objectives during this time was keeping everyone safe and allowing our employees to be able to work and support their families,” said George Jones. “Several of our employees’ main responsibility is sanitizing the facilities hourly; and everyone is enforcing social distancing in their day-to-day business dealings and meetings.

He said several employees chose not to work, and they supported their request for time off, and they have also adjusted hours and implemented split crews for most of their departments.

“We adjusted our test drive options based on customer preference and take vehicles to our customers house and allowed them to drive without a sales consultant in many cases,” Jones said. “We also offered pick-up and delivery for our service customers who weren’t comfortable coming into the dealership.”

He said their sales volume was only down 10 percent in April, but for the most part, business was back to normal in May.

“We are fully staffed and back to our normal business hours, however we realize we must continue to sanitize and continue social distancing,” he said.

“I’m grateful to our customers who have supported us during this time. We are a small, locally owned family business celebrating our 50th year. I’m grateful for our employees who have maintained positive attitudes throughout this crisis, and we will continue to take great care of our company and customers.”

Jerry Damson Automotive Group

Ben Boles, director of digital media for the Jerry Damson Automotive Group, said that from the day Ivey put the stay at home order in place but deemed automotive dealerships and their service departments essential, they developed a governing philosophy surrounding how to keep their employees and customers safe.

“We adopted procedures and protocols to make sure we were compliant not just with state guidelines, but really, with Damson family guidelines,” Boles said. “The family took it seriously, took it to heart, and understood their role in society. If we are judged an essential business, then it is essential our business be leader in the community.

He said they were committed to accommodating whatever their customers needed and will do whatever it takes to make it work for them.

“Our waiting room is open and we have a spacious new building, so we spread out the furniture to make it safe and comfortable. If you prefer, we pick up your vehicle and deliver it back to you. That is fine too,” he said. “We were very quick to adopt high sanitation standards that include gloves, coverings, contactless servicing of your car, and we amended the way we did test drives. We practice social distancing and wear masks when necessary.”

He credits the Damson clean up shop as the unsung heroes of the coronavirus shutdown because they get every car, including used cars, sanitized and they have created a new definition of a frontline-ready used car.

“We have been able to stay open all the days we are usually open and that keeps our employees working, but we did scale back our hours a little because there has been less foot traffic,” Boles said. “We’ve had a lot of change but thankfully as the economy has started reopening, things are looking up.

“People are coming out and looking and they are serious too, definitely here to buy a car!”


Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Revs Up Hiring, Shows Off Post-COVID Assessment Center & Interview Process

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing kept its motor running throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, hiring 100 employees in April.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has implemented COVID-19 guidelines to protect employees. (Photo courtesy Mazda Toyota Manufacturing)

They auto plant kicked things into second gear May 11 by restarting the hiring process with job interviews and skills assessments at the MTM/AIDT Assessment Center at 7262 Governors Drive West, Suite 203, near Bridge Street Towne Center.

Mazda Toyota reopened its assessment center at 50 percent capacity, retrofitted the process with enhanced safety measures that focus on the safety and wellbeing of their employees, business partners, and members of the community.

“Mazda Toyota Manufacturing maintains the safety and wellbeing of our team members, business partners and community at top of mind,” said Toni Eberhart, head of corporate communications for Mazda Toyota Manufacturing. “Though COVID-19 has presented many unprecedented challenges, we take pride in the collaboration and thoughtful decision making of our team to implement enhanced safety measures. It has enabled us to make continued progress toward our start of production in 2021.

“In April and May, we onboarded 144 new employees which represents about 25 percent of our workforce and we look forward to opening opportunities to join our team this year.”

Mayor Tommy Battle and other city leaders toured the facility Thursday to see the new conditions and hiring process.

“MTM is developing​ a core workforce that will manage over 4,000 workers and provide for the economy of North Alabama for years to come,” Battle said. “They have a science to building this foundation and it’s very impressive.”

The changes they saw in action include temperature checks, social distancing, mandatory face coverings, and a heightened sanitation schedule for the facility. The plant has also put some distance between the candidates and the interview staff to meet social distancing standards.

In addition to gearing up the hiring process, MTM announced several milestones in the construction of the 3.7 million square-foot state of the art facility.

As of May 7, the roof and floor slabs are 100 percent complete; the siding and fire protection is 99 percent complete; the piping and ductwork is at 90 percent completion; and the electrical is 75 percent finished.

Currently, MTM has about 500 employees ranging from professional and administrative staff, to engineers, production workers, and a skilled maintenance team.