Naming of Toyota Field was a Two-Year Drive in the Making

Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong, Madison Mayor Paul Finley, TMMAL President David Finch and Trash Pandas President/CEO Ralph Nelson. (Photo/Steve Babin)

MADISON — On a sunny, let’s-play-three day that begged for baseball, even though the calendar had turned mostly toward football and beyond, the Rocket City Trash Pandas got a name for their new home yard hard on the Huntsville-Madison city limit lines.

Toyota Field will usher in the inaugural season of the Double-A Southern League team in April 2020.

Toyota Field is a name for that’s been in the works basically as long as the team, and stadium, have been an idea.

Team President and CEO Ralph Nelson, along with local dignitaries, announced the name on Columbus Day at the stadium that is still under construction.

But the ship of what the stadium would be named, however, set sail about two years ago.

“The day after Thanksgiving in 2017 my wife, Lisa, and I were driving in the hills of Vermont to cut down a Christmas tree,” Nelson said.

The phone rang and it was David Fernandez, then the president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

“In the first minute, he said, ‘Let ‘s figure out a way to put Toyota’s name on your ballpark.’”

They did, and, after two years of crossing t’s and dotting i’s and other legal discussions, Toyota Field was born and became official with the announcement.

Rendering shows the Toyota Field name on the video board neat the Rock Porch in right field. (Photo/Steve Babin)

“It’s incredibly rare for a global corporation to acquire the rights to a minor league stadium,” Nelson said. “But as I’ve said so many times, this is not the minors. This community expects and deserves a major league operation. Toyota Field is very major league.

“In that first call, David told me he wanted Toyota team members to look with pride at their company name on a prominent community landmark. I told him unless he can buy the rights to that rocket ship (at the Space and Rocket Center), he’s come to the right place.’’

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama employs 1,400 workers in Huntsville and is expected to add 400 more in the near future.

Among those speaking at the naming ceremony were Madison Mayor Paul Finley, Madison County Commission Chairman Dale Strong and David Finch, current president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.

“Toyota Field is the new centerpiece of the region that showcases economic development, job growth and quality of life,’’ Finch said.

A “fence” of huge concrete baseballs greet visitors to Toyota Field. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The field’s entrance on the first base side will feature an area overlooking the park and will be called Bill Penney Toyota Plaza. Below is a grassy berm where fans can sit and watch the game. The stadium is ringed with roughly 5,000 seats with a capacity of 7,500. There’s a picnic area down the left-field line and VIP suites above the general seating.

Toyota is planning a showcase of its local products in center field.

“To see the project come to life has been amazing and the energy from the community is contagious,” Finch said.

 

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Looking for a Few Good Applicants … 40,000 to be Exact

The hands-on assessment features seven car bodies with four stations to test an applicant’s ability to follow instructions and perform tasks in a comparable environment to an assembly plant. (Photo/Jonathan Stinson)

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing has to fill 4,000 jobs, with 3,000 of those expected to be hourly production positions, over the next two years, at its vehicle assembly plant in Limestone County.

Normally, a ramp-up of this size would take about three years, according to Jamie Hall, a Toyota advisor for staffing.

To meet its employment goals, MTMUS estimates it needs about 40,000 applicants since the company expects 7 to 10 percent of the applicants to make it all the way through the hiring process and receive an offer, according to Hall.

To make matters more challenging, as Hall puts it: “This work isn’t for everyone.”

But, MTMUS has a clever way of figuring out who will shine on the company’s assembly line thanks to a detailed hiring process and its hands-on skills assessment center.

A successful hire will have to pass three stages before receiving an offer.

Stages one and two take place online.

Step one is a regular job application.

Jill Corbin, a public relations specialist with AIDT, performs a simulation that tests her ability to install wire harnesses. The instructions are given to her on a screen and the car shell is wired to register which harnesses are plugged into which receptors. (Photo/Jonathan Stinson)

This is the first taste an applicant gets of what the job will be like thanks to questions about working overtime, rotating shifts and weekends. They also learn about the pay, MTMUS’ eye toward safe practices, along with other standard job application questions.

“We want candidates that this type of work is good for,” Hall said. “So, it’s a two-way street, because we can only be happy if both the candidate is happy and we are achieving what we need.”

If an applicant makes it past the initial application stage, then they’ll take an online assessment that’s looking for things like their ability to problem solve, use applied learning and measure their leadership potential.

If a candidate fails to pass this assessment, they have two options: They can wait a year and reapply, or they can take a remedial class and restart the process immediately after completing the course.

“If you don’t make it through that point, one of the things that we recognized … was if there is a way that we could train these candidates who didn’t pass the first go-around, maybe they could come back into the system very quickly if they had some additional coaching or training,” Hall said.

That training comes from  Alabama Industrial Development Training (AIDT) and the state’s Ready to Work Program, according to Hall.

If a candidate passes the online assessment, then they are scheduled for MTMUS’ Day of Work Orientation.

This on-site orientation includes the hands-on assessment, an in-person job interview and a job placement interview. Even though this part of the process takes a full day’s commitment from the applicant, it also means a job candidate doesn’t have to take multiple days out of their schedule.

“We want to make sure this is a one-stop-shop because what we learned is, if you get a candidate and you have to pull them multiple times, then you start to lose the candidate,” Hall said.

The hands-on assessment is the star of MTMUS’s hiring process. It features seven car bodies with four stations to test an applicant’s ability to follow instructions and perform tasks in a comparable environment to an assembly plant.

For example, background noise is piped into the warehouse, the temperature is kept at 75 degrees and applicants are decked out in full safety gear.

Another example of the various simulations. This exercise tests an applicant’s ability to install bolts into corresponding receptors with both their left and right hands at the same time. (Photo/Jonathan Stinson)

Each station takes about an hour, which includes instruction, a practice session and then a timed session preforming the task a candidate was just taught.

The tasks include installing various wire harnesses, tightening bolts, tracing various patterns with your left and right hands.

It sounds simple when it’s written on paper, but in the real-world environment of the assessment center, applicants quickly learn it’s not.

The Day of Work Orientation is the last hurdle before an applicant gets a contingent job offer pending a drug screen, physical and background check.

The center can process 36 candidates per shift or 72 per day.

“That is a big improvement,” Hall said. “Previously we have been able to asses 12 per shift.”

MTMUS plans to ramp up its major hiring effort for team members with a target to start the hands-on assessments in January 2020 and have those first applicants on the job by March or April 2020, according to Hall.

Candidates must be 18 years or older and have a high school diploma or GED.

The team leader jobs will open up at the end of October.

The plant will assemble a new, yet-to-be named Toyota SUV along with Mazda’s yet-to-be named crossover model.

New Polaris Upfitting Center Signals Big Push into Commercial and Government Markets

Polaris just made a big statement about its intent to expand its commercial, industrial and government customer-base from Huntsville.

The Polaris Ranger is upfitted for mountain rescue teams. (Polaris photo)

It comes in the form of a new 275,000 square-foot Polaris Commercial and Government Up-fit Center and storage facility in the Jetplex Industrial Park at Huntsville International Airport.

“The Polaris Huntsville Upfit Center provides the capacity, quality controls and lean manufacturing process flow to meet increasing sales demand for our commercial and government customers for many years to come,” said Aaron Luoma, director of operations for Polaris in Huntsville. “Safety is the key priority at the upfit center as we strive to make Polaris a ‘best place to work’ and live up to an unwavering commitment to our employees.”

Upfitting consists of modifying vehicles from their standard retail packages at the plant, to “fit” the specifications of their customers, such as military, public safety and commercial.

The new state-of-the-art facility is equipped with two up-fit lines for the installation and customization of more than 10,000 possible accessories, including cabs, vehicle protection, safety components, and storage accessory vehicles for the Polaris Ranger, Pro XD and RZR commercial vehicles.

The new Polaris Upfit Center has six dedicated work bays, a multistation uplift line, staging, an enhanced post-production quality process, and warehouse space.

Located less than five miles from the 600,000 square-foot Polaris Huntsville manufacturing facility that opened in 2016, the Jetplex site helps facilitate easier shipping across the United States.

There are 28 technicians at the plant who began upfitting vehicles in May.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing Signs Presidential Pledge to America’s Workers

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. recently signed the “Pledge to America’s Workers” affirming its commitment to creating workforce opportunities to American students and workers.

The pledge-signing ceremony included 14 Alabama F.A.M.E. (Federation for Advanced Manufacturing) students who will work in the plant and White House Advisor Ivanka Trump.

“Signing the ‘Pledge to America’s Workers’ demonstrates our dedication to the community. We aim to hire locally whenever possible,” said MTMUS Vice President Janette Hostettler. “At full production, Mazda Toyota Manufacturing will employ up to 4,000 individuals.

“That is 4,000 training and career opportunities and 4,000 reasons we are proud to call North Alabama home.”

The pledge was created by the National Council for the American Worker, a group established by an Executive Order signed by President Trump in July 2018. By signing, companies and trade groups commit to creating opportunities over the next five years for American students and workers, whether through apprenticeships and work-based learning, continuing education, on-the-job training, and re-skilling.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs and is hiring staff and skilled maintenance positions. For information, visit www.mazdatoyota.com.

Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, U.S.A. is a jointly owned-and-operated automotive production plant. The $1.6 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.

Ivanka Trump Joins Panel Discussion, Announcement of Toyota-Manufacturing Institute Program

DECATUR — A highly successful apprenticeship program here earned a visit Tuesday from Advisor to the President of the United States, Ivanka Trump.

The First Daughter was on-hand at the Alabama Robotics Technology Park to celebrate a new partnership between the Manufacturing Institute and Toyota Motor North America.

On stage for a panel discussion are Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers; Luke Phillips of FAME USA; Carolyn Lee of the Manufacturing Institute; Chris Nielsen of Toyota Motor North America; Ivanka Trump, Advisor to the President; Lexandra Lutz of FAME USA; and Michael Lamach of Ingersoll Rand. (Photo/Steve Babin)

The union will facilitate the transfer of operations and leadership of Toyota’s FAME (Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education) apprenticeship program to the Manufacturing Institute.

Trump toured several workstations talking to students who have succeeded in the program before taking the stage in a panel discussion about the future of manufacturing and the impact successful workforce initiatives such as FAME have on the manufacturing industry nationwide.

“Congratulations to all the students who found this pathway, this exceptional program … and for this announcement today,” Trump said. “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.

“But it developed a life of its own. Today is about celebrating manufacturing coming in, 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 inclusive growth, we’re seeing people who have previously been on the sidelines of our economy are now entering the workforce and securing the skills that they need to not just get a job, but to secure a career. And we’re seeing this everywhere we go.”

Carolyn Lee, executive director of the Manufacturing Institute, said at the center of it all is the students who will be the future of the manufacturing skilled workforce.

“As a member of the National Association of Manufacturers, it is our job to educate and empower the next generation of manufacturing workers,” she said.

FAME student Paul Logston and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump. (Photo/Steve Babin)

FAME was created as a pilot a decade ago by Toyota to train the next generation of skilled, high tech manufacturing workers. The training model has gained traction nationwide.

“We believe when good ideas are shared, great things can happen,” said Chris Nielsen, Executive vice president of Toyota Motor North America. “The Manufacturing Institute is a trusted partner ideally equipped to build a program and take it to the next level. There is no better organization to lead FAME into the future and realize its full potential.

“These are well-paying jobs that lead to rewarding careers. We believe this will have a profound impact on many, many, industries and our country as a whole.”

FAME students receive the typical qualifications required for a job in advanced manufacturing. The program is designed to train students of all ages in the skills required to get a manufacturing job; to provide them with a deeper understanding of the manufacturing industry; and to prepare them, as graduates, to fill in-demand manufacturing jobs.

“Today is not just an announcement but a celebration of what can be built with leadership and with the commitment of an industry,” said Lee. “This is about coming together to build something that is truly outstanding, that has proven results, and is changing lives each and every day across the country.”

Dynetics Technical Solutions Wins Army Priority Strategic Hypersonics Program

Dynetics Technical Solutions has been awarded a $351.6 million contract to produce Common-Hypersonic Glide Body prototypes. DTS is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Huntsville-based Dynetics,

Under an Other Transaction Agreement contract, over a three-year agreement period, DTS will produce 20 glide body assemblies for use by the Army, Navy and the Missile Defense Agency, with an option for additional quantities.   DTS will collaborate with Sandia National Laboratories for development and production of the glide body.

The glide body will be a part of an integrated Army hypersonic weapon system prototype that will deliver residual combat capability to soldiers by 2023.

“We are honored to be selected for this high priority national security program,” said DTS President Steve Cook. “Dynetics has been developing enabling technologies for many years. The common hypersonic glide body is a vital component in the National Defense Strategy that includes weapons with increased power.

“Our team is pleased the Army saw that our highly-skilled engineers and technicians can bring this technology rapidly and affordably to the warfighter.”

As the prime contractor for the C-HGB, DTS will provide program and supplier management; procurement; assembly, integration and testing; electrical and mechanical manufacturing; and systems engineering for the C-HGB.

DTS will lead that includes General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems, Lockheed Martin and Raythe0n. They will complete the assembly, integration and test at their North Alabama locations.

“We have selected a strong team with varying skillsets to help the U.S. counter the threat from Russian and Chinese advances in hypersonic weapons,” Cook said. “Each of these companies will bring decades of experience and will join science and technological capabilities to make a modern prototype and eventually become a program of record.”

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems will provide cable, electrical and mechanical manufacturing.  The company will provide engineering, program management, and production support from their Huntsville, San Diego and Tupelo, Miss., locations.

“We’re excited to be part of the Dynetics team, as C-HGB begins its transition from laboratory to production, and ultimately into field operations,” stated Scott Forney, president of General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems.  “We look forward to applying our extensive experience in manufacturing complex systems and leveraging our longstanding relationship with the national laboratories to expedite the delivery of this strategically important capability.”

Lockheed Martin will support in manufacturing, assembly, integration, test, systems engineering and analysis.  Lockheed Martin will conduct this work at their Alabama, Colorado and California facilities, respectively.

“Lockheed Martin is privileged to team with Dynetics to collaboratively build the nation’s next hypersonic glide body prototype,” said Eric Scherff, vice president for Hypersonic Strike Programs for Lockheed Martin Space. “We are proud to partner on this incredible team working toward transforming research and technology into the next generation weapon system for the warfighter.”

As a principal subcontractor on this program, Raytheon will use its extensive experience in advanced hypersonic technology to build and deliver the control, actuation and power-conditioning subassemblies that control flight of the new common hypersonic glide body. The company will also help assemble and test the new glide body.

“Raytheon is working closely with Dynetics and its industry partners to quickly field the hypersonic weapon and provide our nation’s military with the tools it needs to stay ahead of the escalating threat,” said Dr. Thomas Bussing, Raytheon Advanced Missile Systems vice president. “The development of hypersonic weapons is a priority for our country, and we are aggressively working to produce offensive and defensive solutions.”

Separately, DTS has been selected by Lockheed Martin to be a part of the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LHRW) systems integration contract also led by the U.S. Army’s RCCTO. The LHRW program will introduce a new class of ultrafast, maneuverable, long-range missiles that can launch from ground platforms. The LRHW prototype includes the new C-HGB, an existing, refurbished trailer and truck to be modified as a new launcher, and an existing Army command and control system.

DTS will develop launchers with hydraulics, outriggers, power generation and distribution for the ground platform. The company will also provide flight test and training support.

DTS will now support both hypersonic efforts and, collectively, these awards will total $407.6 million for the corporation.

Huntsville’s Burgeoning Regional Economy Part 2: Right-sizing Lifestyle with Quality of Life

(This is the second and final installment of a two-part story on the area’s growing economy.)

Recently, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle shared his vision for Huntsville in terms of an average sized pie. He, along with business owners and civic officials, stood at city center – what Battle calls Huntsville’s “living room” – and looked out in every direction to the edges of the pie’s crust.

What they see are active growth corridors ushering in a significant expansion of the original Huntsville pie, which is accelerating economic growth throughout the North Alabama region.

“Instead of dividing the pie into fifteen different pieces that get smaller the more users you add, we made the whole pie bigger so we could divide it up differently with more restaurants, entertainment and activity venues, more places to spend retail dollars,” he said. “With a bigger pie, each slice is more valuable.”

The success of Twickenham Square, a multi-use development built right in the heart of downtown Huntsville’s medical district and anchored by The Artisan luxury apartments and a Publix, has spurred the development of four more multi-use (multi-purpose or mixed-use) sites in the downtown area.

These developments require the right balance of residential, retail, and commercial space, usually surrounded by a pedestrian-friendly traffic pattern, walking trails and/or parks, and plenty of amenities and activities.

Sealy Realty’s Avenue Huntsville (and the new Avenue Madison); CityCentre at Big Spring with the new AC Hotel by Marriott; the long-awaited Constellation, breaking ground this fall on the old Heart of Huntsville site at Clinton Avenue; and a new development by Rocket Development Partners on the former site of the Coca-Cola plant on Clinton Avenue across from the VBC are either already established or coming soon to downtown Huntsville.

“People ask whether mixed-use/multi-use developments are replacing traditional malls and shopping centers,” said Battle. “But I think you have to look at each one individually. People are looking for more live, work, play types of environments, but I think what we are seeing today is a shift. Is it permanent? Probably some of it is, but I won’t be surprised to see it shift back.”

Max Grelier, co-founder of RCP Companies who developed the AC Hotel as part of CityCentre, as well as MidCity District on the old Madison Square Mall property, agrees.

“Retail centers are not dead. They’re just changing based on consumer behavior,” he said. “Old-style retail centers still play a role in our communities. A good ‘convenience’ style retail center is needed to support suburban neighborhoods.

“However, retailers across most retail center formats are shrinking their footprints and using technology and distribution to keep up with the trends and competition.”

But Battle points out that many online retailers, such as Duluth Trading Company who have been online-only retailers, are building mortar-and-brick stores like the one they opened at Town Madison in June.

And even online behemoth Amazon is now putting stores throughout the U.S.

“I just got back from Nagoya, Japan where they still have huge department stores that are very active because people want to look at what they’re going to buy, touch it, experience the kind of cloth it’s made of and see how it fits,” Battle said.

“When you look at Parkway Place, they are doing very well, and we recently added an apartment component to Bridge Street Town Centre to add a ‘live’ component to it and Research Park’s work and play.

“But when you look at the old Madison Square Mall, it could be found on a site called DeadMalls.com,” Battle said. “We built a lot of malls back in the 1960s and 1970s – probably too many. I think we are now right-sizing back to what we need. There’s still a place for pure shopping like Parkway Place, but I say you need both to succeed.”

Charlie Sealy of Sealy Realty has developed several residential properties including The Belk Hudson Lofts and The Avenue Huntsville, which also has a retail component in downtown Huntsville.

Sealy is also building Avenue Madison that will have a retail and parking component in downtown Madison. He said the trend for new developments will be weighted more towards multi-use developments in the future.

“However, the older style shopping centers and malls won’t be replaced anytime soon unless they are old, obsolete, and really in need of replacement anyway,” said Sealy. “These [mixed-use] developments are definitely what residents and consumers prefer now because of the experience they produce.”

Grelier said the mixed-use developments come in a variety of styles.

“These developments are a type of urban development strategy that blends residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, and/or entertainment uses to initiate more consumer interactions by creating walkable, livable, and experiential communities,” said Grelier. “Mixed-use developments can take the form of a single building, a city block, or entire districts.

“Traditionally, human settlements have developed in mixed-use patterns; however, with industrialization of the U.S., as well as the invention of the skyscraper, governmental zoning regulations were introduced to separate different functions, such as manufacturing, from residential areas.”

Joey Ceci, president of The Breland Companies, which is developing Town Madison and the new Clift Farm project on U.S. 72 in Madison, sees it differently.

“I think we are seeing the death of the supercenter more than malls,” said Ceci. “Those centers with huge parking lots and a row of big box stores lined up next to each other – for one thing people just don’t like that huge parking field and, two, from a developer’s standpoint, if something happens and a business closes or moves out, it is very difficult to repurpose that huge space left behind by a store the size of Target or TJ Maxx. You can use a big box space for a trampoline center or an entertainment center, but you can’t put a restaurant in there.

“Multi-purpose developments are making that space work better by integrating residential into it via restaurants and everyday neighborhood retail like a dry cleaner or hair salon. The idea is to take the new urbanist movement that everyone is following and make smaller blocks of space so that if, in 20 years, that block is no longer viable, knock it down and put something else there. It’s a matter of making it more sustainable over time.”

Sustainability is the focus at Town Madison where Madison Mayor Paul Finley is looking to more than the casual Rocket City Trash Pandas fan to help build out that development.

He’s getting some help from travel sports and softball/baseball recruiters and scouts who will enjoy the regional draw of the new Pro Player Park, just off Wall-Triana Highway.

“The new Pro Player Park and everything Town Madison offers will definitely get foot traffic to our hotels; however, workforce development secures regional success which will also help us locally in aspects of infrastructure and schools,” said Finley.

Finley also points to the success of the Village at Providence, one of the area’s very first mixed-use developments built in 2003, as an example of how popular pedestrian-friendly mixed-use communities have become.

“A mixed-use development offers a live-work-play experience right outside of your front door,” said Finley. “This is appealing to young professionals, established mid-lifers, and retirees alike. These developments are multigenerational that attract businesses to the area.”

“Mixed-use developments are replacing declining malls because they are often well-located within a region that affords them premium access and site metrics,” said RCP’s Grelier who is striving to make the old mall property economically viable again. “When this is the case, there is typically strong demand for several multiple property types such as hospitality, residential, office, restaurants, and retail.

“Single-use commercial centers are becoming more difficult to sustain given changing consumer behavior related to online shopping, and demographic trends focusing on experiences rather than traditional brick-and-mortar shopping.”

However, Grelier said when they purchased the old mall property in 2015, they had a strategy ready for MidCity.

“We began working with the city and Urban Design Associates (UDA) to create a mixed-use project that would meet market demand and help reverse the decline of the West Huntsville commercial corridor,” he said. “We also had a broader, more aspirational strategy in collaboration with the city to use the MidCity District as regional economic growth tool by addressing the ‘next-generation’ workforce demand in Cummings Research Park.”

Grelier said they engaged nationally known market research consultants to perform third-party market studies to guide them in developing programming for a proper balance of uses.

“We used the information from the studies to collaborate with the City and UDA to produce a complete district business plan that would maximize regional draw by creating diverse layers of use and programming at the property,” Grelier said.

“Much of the emphasis is on highlighting our local cultural assets and identifying destination venues like TopGolf, public parks, and an amphitheater to establish a foundation around art and culture.”

He said this is now happening through connections with Huntsville’s and Muscle Shoals’ regional music legacy to bring a world-class 8,500-capacity amphitheater to the development.

“We believe the amphitheatre will be very successful and play a vital role in the elevation of the region as a place you want to live,” Grelier said. “There’s a strong demand for weekend entertainment so the music initiative happening in North Alabama will not only keep locals from traveling to spend in nearby markets, it will attract more weekend tourism to our region.”

Sealy said there is a strategy involved in where they build these mixed-use developments as well.

“These developments are really a long-term strategy in the sense that consumer preferences are shifting this way, so we are building for what is more popular now and appears will be more popular in the future,” he said. “… We are trying to draw certain people and jobs from other cities.  These developments are a recruiting tool and regional draw when we are competing against bigger cities for the same talent.

“Some people, particularly millennials, desire this type of environment for living or work, so we need them to attract that population …. They will spread through the regional area, but they need a certain density of people to work, so they will be concentrated in the growth corridors where the population and jobs are the largest.”

And, now, there is something for just about everyone.

“You hear people say, ‘Huntsville has some pretty cool breweries downtown, I can have some fun on Friday night, go see a baseball game, spend the night, go shop at Bridge Street, play some TopGolf, and get brunch at Stovehouse on Sunday’,” said Ceci. “It makes us a lot like Chattanooga – a kind of weekend destination where people say, ‘Wow! Huntsville is a great place to go for the weekend. There is always something to do.’”

Sealy said the mixed-use strategy is rewarding.

“I enjoy working on mixed-use projects because there is a huge emphasis on architecture, walk-ability, streetscape,” said Sealy. “The multi-use developments are a bigger challenge, but it is a rewarding creative process.”

Battle said the revitalization of one area pays benefits to the entire city.

“The Live, Work, Play strategy has always been our city plan,” said Battle. “Revitalize one area using the profits of another area we have revitalized and watch the spread of that revitalization until eventually the whole city is revitalized from one end to the other in every direction.”

Toyota Donation Helps Drive Advanced Manufacturing Program at Drake State

Toyota is putting its products on the assembly line for education.

The automaker is donating two Corollas and 12 engines to support the advanced manufacturing program at Drake State Community & Technical College in Huntsville.

“We believe it’s our responsibility to partner with educators to support career readiness programs that help develop our future workforce,” said Kim Ogle, Toyota Alabama corporate communications. “By donating these vehicles and engines, we are helping ensure students are trained on up-to-date equipment and receiving the highly technical skills needed for the thousands of manufacturing jobs in our area.”

The donated Corollas and engines – valued at approximately $200,000 – were originally used to provide onsite training for team members at the Huntsville Toyota engine plant.

Now, these products will serve a new training purpose as it supports hands-on learning at Drake State.

“This investment in the development of our workforce by Toyota is a great of example of how we – business and education – should and must work together to ensure that when potential employees arrive at the doorsteps of industry, they are ready to work,” said Patricia Sims, President of JF Drake State.

“We encourage other companies to directly engage with local schools and community colleges to help strengthen overall workforce readiness efforts.”

DaikyoNishikawa US Breaks Ground on $110M Plant to Supply Mazda Toyota Factory

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood that is Mazda Toyota Manufacturing US.

On Thursday, executives of DaikyoNishikawa US joined state and local leaders at a groundbreaking event on the MTMUS campus in Limestone County to launch construction on its $110 million manufacturing plant. It will be DNUS’s first U.S. manufacturing plant.

The DNUS facility, which will produce plastic automotive parts for the MTMUS assembly plant, will employ approximately 380 people at full production.

In May, DNUS became the first supplier to announce plans to locate on the site of the Mazda Toyota joint venture assembly plant, which will have the capacity to produce up to 300,000 vehicles annually.

“As our first manufacturing facility in North America, DNUS is proud to serve Mazda Toyota and call Huntsville our new home,” said Nariaki Uchida, president of DaikyoNishikawa Corp. “Together with our business and community partners, our aim is to be a good corporate neighbor and a premiere Tier I automotive supplier.”

By establishing the Huntsville operations, DNC aims to further strengthen relationships with major customers.

The DNUS project represents one of the latest in a string of supplier announcements tied to the MTMUS assembly plant in 2019. So far, a total of five MTMUS suppliers have pinpointed sites in North Alabama for production locations that will create almost 1,700 new auto-sector jobs, most of them in Huntsville.

The DNUS plant will supply resin auto parts, such as bumpers and instrument panels, to Mazda Toyota.

“DaikyoNishikawa is a key manufacturer in the growing cluster of Tier 1 automotive suppliers for MTMUS, and we’re excited to provide the skilled workers for this high-performing auto industry leader,” ​Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said.

“I’m proud to welcome another great Japanese company, DaikyoNishikawa … and I know that together we will build a lasting partnership,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “Today marks another pivotal moment for Huntsville as it becomes the next vital production hub for the global auto industry.”

Construction on the 3.1 million-square-foot MTMUS facility is well under way, with as many as 2,500 construction workers expected on the site this summer. The Mazda-Toyota partnership is investing $1.6 billion to open the Huntsville assembly plant, which will employ up to 4,000 people.

Once the DNUS facility begins operations to coincide with the start of MTMUS vehicle production in 2021, DNUS will manufacture large resin parts such as bumpers and instrument panels for the automakers.

“By selecting Alabama as the site for its first U.S. manufacturing facility, DaikyoNishikawa joins a long list of world-class Japanese companies with growing operations in the state,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “We look forward to working with this high-caliber company to assemble a workforce in Huntsville that can fuel its growth plans.”

Auto Supplier Vuteq to Join Mazda Toyota Campus; Creating 200 Jobs

Another supplier will soon be breaking ground at the massive Mazda Toyota Manufacturing plant campus in Huntsville.

Japan-based Vuteq, which has operated in North America for more than three decades, will hire approximately 200 workers for its first production location in Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey announced Wednesday.

Vuteq USA plans to invest more than $60 million to open a manufacturing facility to serve the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A.  auto assembly plant in Huntsville. The company joins a growing list of Tier 1 suppliers that have announced plans to set up operations in the region.

“The automotive cluster growing around Mazda Toyota Manufacturing U.S.A. is gaining another significant addition with Vuteq’s decision to open a manufacturing facility in Huntsville,” Ivey said. “Vuteq has established a large industrial footprint in the United States, and it’s great to see the company expand that presence to our state. We look forward to working with Vuteq …”

Vuteq USA will produce interior and exterior plastic-injected parts and various sub-assemblies for Mazda and Toyota at their shared assembly plant, now under construction on a 2,500-acre tract in the Limestone County portion of Huntsville.

“Vuteq USA Inc. is very pleased and excited to be opening our next plant in Alabama,” Kazumasa Watanabe, president of Vuteq USA, said in the governor’s press release. “Our company is thankful for the support provided by the city of Huntsville and state of Alabama as we begin a new chapter.”

Construction work at Vuteq’s site at 7306 Greenbriar Parkway, just outside the MTMUS campus, is scheduled to begin in October and completed in September 2020. A production launch is targeted for 2021.

“We’re pleased that Huntsville will be home to Vuteq’s first venture in Alabama and we welcome them to our growing network of automotive suppliers,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said.

Vuteq USA has begun hiring the first of its Alabama workforce, with full employment at the Huntsville facility projected to be reached in 2021.

Interested applicants can email the company at VuteqAlabamaJobs@vuteqky.com. The company is also working with AIDT, the state’s primary workforce development agency, for hiring and training support.

Within its Huntsville facility, Vuteq USA will host several other manufacturing companies, one of which will be Diversity Vuteq LLC, a minority joint venture, and others yet to be named.

The Mazda-Toyota partnership is investing $1.6 billion to build and equip its Huntsville assembly plant, which will have up to 4,000 workers producing up to 300,000 vehicles annually. Construction on the facility began this year.

MTMUS is expected to begin vehicle production in 2021.

By that time, a network of parts suppliers will be in place in North Alabama to support the Huntsville assembly operation. Counting Vuteq, five suppliers have already announced plans for facilities that will create nearly 1,700 jobs. Their combined investment in Alabama totals $440 million.

“Vuteq is a superb addition to Alabama’s rapidly growing network of high-caliber international auto suppliers,” said Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce. “I’m confident that Vuteq will benefit from the capabilities of Alabama’s skilled workforce and the state’s business-friendly environment. I know we can build a solid future together.”

Vuteq, which has more than 13,000 employees, has a long-established relationship with Toyota and plans to build a strong partnership with Mazda.

Since 1965, Vuteq has supplied Toyota with various services including logistics and parts such as interior trim, door trim and cockpit assemblies, among other things.

Vuteq launched North American operations in 1987 at Georgetown, Ky., where Toyota operates an assembly plant. Vuteq has U.S. plants in Indiana, Texas and Mississippi and a facility in Ontario.