Behind closed doors, top secret, clandestine: this is how Alabama's economic developers operate.
The confidential dealings may or may not be happening right now with one major player in the electric powered automotive game up for grabs.
Toyota Alabama plant
Courtesy of Mazda Toyota Manufacturing
And it could be a game changer if Alabama wins out.
Toyota recently announced plans to launch a new electric car battery company, pouring billions into development and production in the U.S. and creating nearly 2,000 new jobs at an as-yet-undetermined location for a plant.
Toyota Manufacturing North America already has a substantial footprint in North Alabama, leaving many people wondering if we are in the running to be home for the new plant. There is likely a full court press already in the works to lure the company to the Yellowhammer State again.
The Alabama Department of Commerce won’t confirm nor deny if they are working with any one company, including Toyota.
Seven states have Toyota operations already, including Alabama, but economic experts tell WAAY 31 there are lots of factors that Toyota is looking at as they pick their next plant site.
“The individual states are trying to get into the game as well, and Alabama is no exception,” said Anthony D’Costa, an economics professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He said Alabama has an advantage, like many Southern states, in that it's cheaper here and there are manufacturers here already.
A recent big economic development win in Alabama provides some insight into what state leaders could be working on to sweeten the deal with Toyota. Alabama beat out hundreds of other possible sites to secure the Mazda Toyota plant in Huntsville-annexed Limestone County. During that secret process, the deal had a code name and operated in complete secrecy.
If the state is going after Toyota's new plant, D’Costa thinks economic developers are likely highlighting the state’s advantages for doing business here. Alabama is already home to several large-scale auto projects. The state offers tax incentives for industry, property and sales tax abatement, plus investment and jobs credits under the Alabama Jobs Act.
But there's more.
“Alabama stands a very good chance," D'Costa said. "Obviously, this is a bit of crystal-gazing, but that’s what I would say, looking at the information we have in front of us right now. It is one thing to expect based on the attractiveness of Alabama; it’s another thing to say what is Toyota thinks now. One has to get into Toyota's shoes.”
We know Toyota wants to start production at that new plant in 2025 and is expected to create nearly 2,000 new jobs.