Arkansas City Spurned Twice By Toyota

Marion, Ark., loses out on a Toyota plan for a second time. Kay Brockwell, who led the city's pitch while directing the Department of Economic Development, says the plant would have brought much-needed jobs to the area.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Toyota's decision to build in Tupelo was the headline in a newspaper that serves another community, Marion, Arkansas. There the reaction was very different. Marion was one of the cities vying for Toyota's new plant and this is the second time the city has been passed over.

Four years ago, Marion was the runner-up for a Toyota Tundra plant. We got Kay Brockwell on the line. She directs the Marion Department of Economic Development.

Ms. KAY BROCKWELL (Director, Marion Department of Economic Development): This one hurts worse than the last one did. I think the last time we were so new at the game that we really didn't know what to expect and really weren't sure that we even had a shot at the deal. We felt like this time that we had a very good chance at the Toyota plant, and it was quite depressing to learn that it was going somewhere else.

MONTAGNE: And what were the reasons you really felt pretty good about it that you had a shot?

Ms. BROCKWELL: Well, we have one of the best locations logistically in North America. We're near the center of the country. We have North-South and East-West interstate connections. We have two rail lines. And with the Memphis metropolitan labor market, we have a labor pool of somewhere around 1.2 million people in the 75-mile radius.

MONTAGNE: How important was it for Marion to get this plant?

Ms. BROCKWELL: It was not as important to Marion as it was to the surrounding community. Marion is an affluent little town. We are in the midst of a growth spurt both residentially, commercially, industrially, but it fits in the middle of the Mississippi Delta. Many, many communities within the 70-mile radius, of which Marion is the center, are not doing nearly that well. This could have meant a major economic boost for those communities and I really regret that they're not going to be able to experience that, at least not yet.

MONTAGNE: Have you figured how much time and money that Marion spent to try and get this bid?

Ms. BROCKWELL: I won't even begin to think about time.

MONTAGNE: As in a lot of time.

Ms. BROCKWELL: A lot of time. I've worked on very little else but this since November.

MONTAGNE: Wow. And so in a sense this bid was the Marion Department of Economic Development.

Ms. BROCKWELL: Pretty much.

MONTAGNE: So, what's next then? Plunge into another bid?

Ms. BROCKWELL: Oh, you know, there are always a number of projects that we're looking at and thinking about. I do hope that we have the opportunity to talk with Toyota to find out what our weaknesses were in this process because we're not through. We do not intend to give up recruiting an automobile plant, and I am confident that we will have an automobile plant on our site.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much for joining us and good luck next time.

Ms. BROCKWELL: Thanks so much.

MONTAGNE: Kay Brockwell directs the Department of Economic Development for Marion, Arkansas.

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