Chester Dawson visits Toyota Motor Corp. and its plant in Blue Springs in this article in the Wall Street Journal.

In it, Dawson says Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, as the plant is officially called, is ready to start its "first 10 new recruits" the first week of January.

Here's an excerpt:

While fewer than 150 people reside in the rural town of Blue Springs where the factory is located, locals say the jobs will help ease an 11% unemployment rate in Northeastern Mississippi, partly the legacy of thousands of job losses from overseas outsourcing in the region's mainstay furniture industry.

"When you see a billion-dollar investment in that part of the state, it's significant," says Gray Swoope, executive director of the state's business development authority based in Jackson, Miss. "In 10 years, we expect to see even more [Toyota] models and more jobs." 

The state also expects to recoup its investment in 10 years.

For Toyota, the Blue Springs plant represents a $1 billion bet on higher demand for its cars as U.S. vehicle sales recover from recessionary lows and its brand image recovers from a massive recall.

State and local officials express confidence their nearly $300 million investment to lure Toyota will be justified as the plant expands its vehicle lineup beyond the Corolla and as more automotive parts suppliers and spinoff service providers set up shop nearby.

So far, Toyota has limited the plant's expected output to a relatively modest 140,000 vehicles a year, even though its capacity is closer to 200,000. Industry experts say most vehicle assembly factories in North America need to make more than 200,000 units per year to be profitable.

"If you spend that kind of money, then at a 140,000 [units] a year, it's tough to make money," said Ron Harbour, an automotive consultant and Detroit-based partner at Oliver Wyman. "Toyota may be guessing that higher fuel economy standards will create more demand for small cars."

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