Buffalo Rock Moving Operations with $20M Facility

The Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Plant “neighborhood” is about to get a new resident.

Buffalo Rock announced it will be moving its distribution operations from Old Madison Pike to a $20 million facility next year in Limestone County near the massive auto plant north of I-565.

The new distribution center for Pepsi-Cola beverages and food products will employ 130 full-time workers and be operational by the end of the year. The current facility has 108 employees and there is no room for expansion.

“The operations on Old Madison Pike will be moving to this new facility by the end of 2021,” Buffalo Rock President/COO Matthew Dent said in a statement. “As with other projects, the overall goals are to improve the employee-partner experience, increase efficiency and productivity, and expand our ability to handle the strategic growth we have envisioned.”

According to plans, the city is purchasing about 85 acres for some $3.2 million and will then sell 55 acres to Buffalo Rock for $2.75 million.

“The capital investment they’re doing in the area means we’ll have more building and the amount of money they’ll add to the economy will be $5 million a year in payroll,” said Mayor Tommy Battle.

Huntsville will use the other 30 acres for flood mitigation and infrastructure, Battle said.

Dent said that was the option that helped his company choose Huntsville over other locations.

“With the city’s commitment to invest in the property’s road access, retention and utilities, it became an attractive option that allows us to stay in Huntsville as we expand,” he said.

Battle said the commitment is a “win-win” for Huntsville.

“There are no real abatements on this project,” he said. “They are promising jobs; they are promising capital investment.

“So, it’s a win-win for community.”

According to the agreement, the city will make road improvements and Huntsville Utilities will provide – at no cost to Buffalo Rock – electrical, natural gas, water and sewer connections. The agreement also states the plant must be operational by the end of next year with 130 full-time employees no later than Jan. 1, 2023.

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Chamber Hosts Virtual Automotive Hiring Event

Ready for some good news/bad news?

The bad news first: Yes, there are a lot of people out of work, some people who are not sure their jobs are coming back post-COVID, and others facing instability in their current jobs and careers.

But there is a lot of good news for these people: Huntsville has jobs available, and lots of them – particularly in the automotive industry.

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce is hosting a virtual North Huntsville Automotive Hiring
Event Wednesday with Mazda Toyota Manufacturing and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama, as well as other automotive industry-related companies.

The companies will do virtual presentations about the work they do and what their jobs entail. They will meet with job seekers to discuss the jobs they have available (entry-level and above); and talk about the companies’ culture and expectations.

According to Lucia Cape, senior vice president of Economic Development at the Chamber, they will be using a platform called Remo, an interactive online recruitment environment.

“Ideally, we would do this in an auditorium where we could get people in the room talking to each other face-to-face,” Cape said. “But this is the closest thing we could find with COVID still a threat.

“There will also be a presentation from AIDT, Alabama’s statewide industrial training and recruitment group which does most of the hiring for production jobs.”

Cape said there are openings now with great opportunities to make a career change.

“If you know someone who is out of work, or concerned about their job or their career, given the changes in our economy, encourage them to check this out,” Cape said. “We are experiencing a lot of growth – we have never had this kind of OEM activity before … we are always looking for ways to support these companies, while making sure the community benefits from these great job projects.”

There are two sessions Wednesday: 4-5 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. with spots for 200 people per event.

Cape said if they max these two sessions out, they will host another one. She said there will likely be similar events well into the first quarter of 2021.

“Remember, the Chamber’s job site at https://asmartplace.com/work/find-a-job has jobs posted from other industries and other employers all the time,” she said. “But we had a particular push right now with Mazda Toyota and Toyota Alabama for specific positions that are available now.”

To register in advance for the 4 p.m. event, go to bit.ly/NorthHSVautojobs1.

To register in advance for the 5 p.m. event, go to bit.ly/NorthHSVautojobs2.

Automotive companies that would like to join the job fair should contact Cape at lcape@hsvchamber.org.

 

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing to Launch Second Phase of Mass Hiring

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, the Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp. joint-venture automotive plant, will resume hiring for production team member positions Dec. 7.

Company and state officials will discuss the hiring opportunities during a Facebook Live event at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. It is open to the public.

“When you join the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing team you become a part of something bigger. Our production team member positions are career opportunities on a world-class team of highly-skilled, high-trained coworkers supported by leadership committed to the individual success of each employee on our team,” said Janette Hostettler, vice president of Production. “We looked forward to launching this next phase of hiring and encourage all interested in joining our team to tune into the Facebook Live event to learn more.”

“The partnership between the State of Alabama and Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has been great not only for our state but also our citizens,” said Ed Castile, Deputy Secretary of Commerce. “We’re proud to support their hiring and training needs as they move into the next phase of their process and give more Alabamians an opportunity to jump start their manufacturing careers.”

The positions are direct hire, full-time positions. Starting wage for production team members is $17/hour with a top grow in wage of $23/hour plus shift premium. Production team members are provided benefits on their first day of employment including paid time off, vehicle discount program, and medical/dental/vision.

Eligibility to participate in the company’s 401k with 6 percent employer match begins just 60 days after employment. Interested candidates may submit their application beginning Dec. 7 at MazdaToyota.com.

Facebook Live Details:
Date: Thursday, Dec. 3
Time: 3:30 – 4 p.m.
Link: www.facebook.com/aidtedu

Featured speakers are Hannah Hartline, Communications Specialist II, AIDT; Janette Hostettler, VP of Production, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing; Jena Huskey, Talent Acquisition Specialist, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing; and Mitch Hewlett, Production Team Leader in Assembly, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing.

 

South Huntsville Companies Host Private Topping Out Ceremony

Freedom Real Estate and Capital, Invariant and Torch Technologies hosted a Topping Out ceremony for their multi-tenant facility in South Huntsville.

Due to COVID restrictions, the event was held privately Friday. In building construction, topping out is a builders’ rite traditionally held when the last beam is placed atop a structure during its construction. The completion date for the facility at 4040 Chris Drive is set for early next summer.

Joining Freedom CEO Bill Roark at the ceremony were Huntsville Madison County Chamber CEO Chip Cherry, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Invariant Director of Advanced Technology John Montgomery, Torch Technologies Senior Director Brady Porter and Turner Construction’s Project Executive Brandon Tucker.  Turner raised the final beam atop the structure.

“Congratulations to our design and construction partners for keeping the project on schedule and moving forward safely during COVID,” said Freedom’s Director of Capital Projects Lee Holland.

The design is led by Arcspace Studio and construction is led by Turner Construction. The project has achieved 25,000 work hours to date with no lost time accidents or injuries.

The 4040 Chris Drive Development is 92,000 square feet and will feature a mix of office, research and development labs, light manufacturing, assembly, and integration space along with a high bay.

Toyota Names Jason Puckett as President of Huntsville Engine Plant

Jason Puckett, who currently serves as vice president, Administration at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, has been named president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama in Huntsville.

Jason Puckett

The Huntsville plant assembles four-, six- and eight-cylinder engines – the only Toyota facility to assemble all three engine styles.

Puckett succeeds David Finch, who will return to Toyota South Africa Motors as senior vice president, Manufacturing. Finch has been instrumental in leading the Huntsville plant’s $288 million expansion effort, including a new 150,000 square-foot V6 engine assembly line, and the creation of 450 jobs.

David Fernandes

Puckett started his career with Toyota in 1997 as a specialist in Assembly preceding TMMI’s start of production. He has held a variety of roles in Indiana including vice president, Manufacturing; general manager, Bodyweld and Stamping; and general manager, Production Control. Puckett spent two years at Toyota’s manufacturing and engineering headquarters as general manager, Corporate Strategy, responsible for overall manufacturing strategic initiatives in North America.

David Fernandes, the former president of the Huntsville facility who is now senior vice president, Manufacturing, Toyota South Africa Motors, will become president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi. The plant just north of Tupelo assembles one of Toyota’s core vehicles, the Corolla.

In this role, Fernandes will be responsible for all manufacturing and administration functions.

KTECH Expands Workforce Training Initiative in Partnership with Toyota Plant

It was a matter of seeing is believing for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

After company representatives toured the classrooms and labs at Huntsville’s KTECH, the two forged a partnership for KTECH to provide workforce training support and advanced technology capabilities to the Huntsville engine plant’s growing  team.

Launched in 2016, KTECH is a workforce development program created by founder Lee Marshall for her Kids to Love Foundation, targeting young adults who have aged out of the foster care system.

The program also reaches out to anyone in the community, such as veterans, who can use the skills. It focuses on providing certified skills training that will leverage them into good-paying career jobs and, since then, has proven to be a successful workforce training model.

According to Marshall, officials with the engine plant approached in February with a request for customized training. In August, KTECH trained the first Toyota team members.

“Innovation is a key component to the advanced manufacturing industry,” said Marshall. “The ability to train for that industry has been part of KTECH’s strategic plan from the beginning.

“Adding this component positions KTECH to expand our student base beyond those pursuing education alone, and includes students who have careers, but want to hone their expertise.”

Joe Steder, the plant’s maintenance and facilities manager, said after touring the KTECH facility, company leaders saw first-hand the superior caliber of students enrolled and identified KTECH as an opportunity to further support their training needs.

“KTECH developed customized courses that our skilled maintenance technicians can take locally, which provides tremendous benefits to our team,” said Steder.

“The objective of the class is to introduce, familiarize, and build skillsets for using cobot and vision tools,” said Keith Laney, Skilled Maintenance Group leader.  “The top down training approach reflects how technicians actually perform on the job, making it very effective.”

KTECH Workforce Development Director  Dorothy Havens said the organization hones in on the skills companies are seeking.

“Our biggest challenge is filling the number of advanced manufacturing jobs in our community, and connecting with the current workforce so our students have instant industry access. It is a win for everyone,” said Havens.

To date, KTECH has awarded 134 certifications and found graduates jobs at more than 20 local companies.

As FAME Star Shines, Chamber Formalizes Partnership with Rocket City Chapter

From the time Toyota launched its flagship Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (FAME) initiative in 2014, city leaders praised it as a promising and much needed apprenticeship training program and recruitment tool for the entire region.

AMTs Paul Logston and Brandon Powers working at Huntsville’s EFi Inc.

Now the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce is formalizing its support for the Rocket City Chapter of FAME Alabama with an official partnership.

According to Lydia Pennington, Chamber Industry Relations director, this new partnership includes local industry and education partners, and the North Alabama Manufacturing Institute.

“Making this partnership official will help support Toyota and AL FAME as a trusted employer-led talent solution,” said Pennington. “For several years, the Chamber has been a constant presence in support of the program and that has not changed, but more than 10,000 new manufacturing jobs have been announced over the past three years in Huntsville/Madison County. That accounts for more than 80 percent of total job announcements, so we are excited about this.”

FAME also got the attention of Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle who, in a panel discussion after his State of the City Address, said his administration was discussing strategy, trying to shore up anything that could prevent Huntsville from realizing its full potential when FAME filled in some problem areas.

“At the time, Toyota was advertising for 200 jobs, and they had 10,000 people apply,” he said. “That showed us we had an under-employment issue that needed to be addressed.”

Pennington said the partnership will also help the Rocket City chapter grow and diversify into other industries besides automotive – in fact, that is already happening.

Brown Precision, a machine manufacturing company in Huntsville, has been onboard almost from the beginning.

“The FAME program is the most effective way we have found to solve the problem of finding qualified industrial maintenance technicians,” said Co-CEO Greg Brown. “We have over 50 CNC machine tools that need constant planned/preventive maintenance and occasional major repairs.

“I’ve been impressed by the rigor of the FAME program’s technical education as well as the program’s emphasis on the ‘essential’ skills required to be a part of a successful organization. I am thankful that the FAME program has filled a critical void for Brown Precision Inc.”

Matthew Johnson, Dante Thomas and Matthew Rolin at FAME graduation.

In Huntsville, FAME enrollment has more than doubled since 2014 and that jump in 2019 was a topic of discussion last September when First Daughter Ivanka Trump visited the Manufacturing Institute to celebrate the partnership that brought the FAME USA apprenticeship program under MI leadership.

“Toyota did something exceptional in creating a pilot that was excellent, to train that next generation of high-tech manufacturers, and then we start to scale it across the country,” Trump said. “FAME is an example of manufacturing taking best class practices from the private sector and scaling that opportunity so that many, many, more Americans can experience this pathway of acquired skills through this great program.

“We’re seeing people who have previously been on the sidelines of our economy, now entering the workforce and securing the skills that they need to not just get a job, but to secure a career.”

Findings in a report put out by the Brookings Institution and Opportunity America show AL FAME is one of the most successful apprenticeship models in the country. The report draws special attention to FAME’s benefits for less advantaged students, including older learners and those not planning to attend college.

Apprenticeship is the only path to a postsecondary credential and well-paying career for these people but, with COVID-19, a more job-focused education and training is also an option.

“Our study highlights what a growing group of manufacturing employers already know,” said Opportunity America President Tamar Jacoby, one of the authors of the report. “The FAME program works to prepare learners for today’s rapidly changing economy, teaching not just technical skills but also critical thinking, problem solving and teamwork.”

Today, FAME is a national network of nearly 400 companies in 13 states, with more than 1,100 Advanced Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) completing the program.

“We welcome this partnership with the Chamber, which we know will allow us to continue to grow … the workforce needs of this region,” said Scott Russo, president of the Rocket City Chapter of AL FAME. “The rapid growth of this chapter shows the value of the FAME model, and now, with more than 20 companies sponsoring AMTs, it is a great time to add an experienced and trusted partner to help us manage the Chapter.”

For Tony Davis, senior director for Workforce Initiatives for MI and FAME USA national leader, the partnership is a model for a win-win situation.

“With the Chamber helping employers solve their skilled position needs while growing local workforce capacity, at the same time theses employers are strengthening their pipeline of global-best talent while fostering relationships with local schools to continue to feed that pipeline,” said Davis. “All of this makes the area more attractive for continued growth, ensuring the entire region benefits from the economies created through this partnership.”

There are 51 graduates from the Rocket City Chapter of FAME, and there are currently 73 students enrolled in the Huntsville program.

“The Chamber is committed to supporting the FAME Rocket City Chapter and helping it grow to meet local demand,” said Pennington.

 

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Unveils Corporate Logo

As its massive auto plant nears completion, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing unveiled its corporate logo.

The logo, which was developed through partnership with local marketing agency Red Sage Communications, is rich in symbolism and was designed to represent Mazda Toyota Manufacturing’s mission, vision, values and ties to North Alabama, the company said in a news release Tuesday. Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is a joint manufacturing venture between Mazda Motor Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp.

“The development process for the MTM logo was very intentional. We solicited the collaboration and support of our entire team – from production employees to executive officers – to ensure there was meaning in nearly every facet of the design,” said Mark Brazeal, Mazda Toyota vice president of administration, “We want North Alabama to see our logo as a reminder of our commitment to serve as a hometown company as much as we want our team to be inspired and motivated to build the highest quality products for our customers every day.”

“The opportunity to work collaboratively with Mazda Toyota Manufacturing’s team to develop their new logo and brand identity was tremendously exciting. We were honored to be chosen for the partnership,” said Ellen Didier, Red Sage Communications founder and president. “The company’s brand values of innovation and collaboration, as well as a desire to relate to and connect with the North Alabama community, were key inspirations for the design.”

The logo, which reads “MTM”, is composed of two sides joined by three lines representing the company origin and foundation of support from its parent companies, Mazda and Toyota. It also includes meaningful design elements such as use of a custom red that was created through a mix of three shades of paint; Alabama state red, Toyota red and Mazda soul red. The blend was created by students at Limestone County Career Technical Center and was painted on the vehicle cabs used to complete assessments at the AIDT/MTM Assessment Center.

“As we prepare to resume applications for Production Team Members in the upcoming months and continue to make strides toward start of production, we are so proud to reveal our logo to the community,” Brazeal said. “We look forward to being here, building our team and offering exciting opportunities to join us for many, many years to come.”

Mazda Toyota has hired more than 750 employees and the $2.311 billion facility is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs and will have the capacity to assemble up to 300,000 vehicles a year, beginning in 2021.

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.