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Toyota's achievement is absolutely amazing

AMERICANS once took for granted the manufacturing enterprises that can transform an industry - a whole economy - and provide stability for tens of thousands of people for decades.

Such thoughtless days are behind us.

Toyota Motor North America on Wednesday marked production of the 10 millionth powertrain engine unit at its Buffalo in Putnam County. It's an astonishing achievement that richly deserves notice.

In 1986, Sen. Jay Rockefeller began trying to persuade Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda, chairman of the company, to look at West Virginia.

In 1996, Toyota announced that it would spend $400 million to build a plant at Buffalo. It employed about 350 people when it opened in 1998.

The company has since invested another $900 million and expanded the Buffalo plant seven times.

The facility now employs 1,300 people directly, and Jim Lentz, chief executive officer of Toyota Motor North America, said it accounts for more than 10,000 other jobs throughout the region as well.

Team members at Buffalo now make engine parts for nine Toyota and Lexus models. A Toyota with a powertrain unit produced at Buffalo rolls off an assembly line in North America every 20 seconds now.

This is the new American auto industry, and West Virginians helped make it.

"I think it's safe to say Toyota loves West Virginia and we're here to stay," Lentz said at the celebration, which Toyoda and Rockefeller attended.

The partnership that began with them, and has been supported by so many others since, has proved very powerful.

Congratulations are indeed in order.


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