Lentz said the success of operations like the one at Buffalo have helped company officials pursue that strategy. And he said the amount the company has invested in the Buffalo plant shows Toyota is committed to the local economy.
Toyota initially announced in 1996 that it would spend $400 million to build the Buffalo plant, which employed about 350 people when it opened.
Since then, Toyota has invested nearly $900 million in seven different expansion projects, bringing the total investment to the plant to $1.3 billion and increasing the size of its workforce by nearly 1,000.
Lentz said if you consider all of the secondary jobs at other companies that are tied to the plant's production, production at the Buffalo plant accounts for more than 10,000 jobs throughout the region.
In addition to jobs, the company has also contributed nearly $6.5 million to organizations throughout the community and state, including a $32,500 donation made to 13 schools in Putnam, Mason, Cabell and Kanawha counties Wednesday.
"I think it's safe to say Toyota loves West Virginia and we're here to stay," Lentz said.
Those words warmed the heart of Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who began trying to convince Toyota Chairman Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda in January 1986 to get the company to invest in West Virginia.
Toyoda and Rockefeller were side-by-side Wednesday as the plant celebrated.
"This plant has just enormous meaning to me in every single way," Rockefeller said.
Rockefeller said the Japanese have an exceptional work ethic, one he believes matches well with that found in West Virginia. He said the Buffalo plant and the way it has grown over the year was proof of that.
"What started as a $400 million plant with 350 people is now up to almost 1,300 and an investment of $1.3 billion - that's almost never happened before in our state," Rockefeller said.
"We've went through seven expansions and it's a workforce that's comparable with anywhere in the world -- in fact, better."
Contact writer Jared Hunt at busin...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.
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