This week marks the tenth anniversary of groundbreaking for the $1 billion Toyota pickup truck plant in South San Antonio, and officials who were part of 'Team Toyota' which worked to bring the Japanese automaker to the city, say the expectations they had ten years ago have been realized, 1200 WOAI news reports.
"We knew that it was an event that would transform our city forever," Joe Krier, who was then President of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, told 1200 WOAI news.
"I think Toyota's decision clearly ranks among the top ten in economic impact in our city's history."
Toyota first indicated to state officials early in 2003 that they were exploring locating a plant to make Tundra pickups in Texas. By summertime that had been narrowed down to San Antonio, but Krier says negotiations to close the deal were delicate, with incentive packages being negotiated and discussions involving everything from available land to work force, to acceptance of the unique Toyota method of doing business.
The announcement was made at the Institute of Texan Cultures, and on October 17, 2003, construction began on what is now the sprawling Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas facility off Applewhite Road.
"It gave us the basis for a strong industrial sector for our economy, and it has grown a host of automobile suppliers in this area."
The plant opened in late 2006, which was perhaps the worst possible time to open a plant making pickup trucks. The economy began sliding into recession shortly after the plant opened, and in 2010 a huge tsunami devastated Japan's industrial centers, delaying the arrival of parts and forcing the plant to drastically reduce production.
Some major business publications even suggested that the Texas plant had been a mistake, and predicted that the plant would close.
But Krier says the 'Toyota method' shone through, even when the situation as the darkest.
"Even when they had to cut back production substantially, they kept those employees on, and they engaged those employees in community work with a host of non profits."
IN 2011, Toyota workers began putting down paint brushes and again picking up the tools need to make not only Tundra pickups, but the smaller Tacoma pickup. Production of about half of Toyota's Tacoma line was moved here in 2009, when a joint venture with General Motors in Northern California closed when GM filed for bankruptcy.
Today the Toyota plant is operating two shifts at full production, and is on pace to produce a record number of vehicles this year. Last month, TMMTX produced its one millionth truck, and the 200,000 vehicle mark which was seen as the production limit when the plant opened was surpassed last year and will easily be surpassed this year.
Employment between Toyota and the ring of independent suppliers that surround Toyota now surpassed 5,000, with many workers raking in overtime due to truck demand. The Toyota complex is the largest industrial facility in Texas.
And Krier says it has paid and will continue to pay numerous financial benefits simply by the impact it's presence has on economic decisions made by other employers.
"If your community is good enough for Toyota to make a billion dollar investment, they say, your community is good enough for us to take a look at."