You gotta admit. It was worth the wait. Toyota. In Blue Springs. Now, aren't you glad the other plant went to Alabama?
It is no fluke that the name has come to represent quality in the minds of consumers, and in the business world. The Toyota model has become the world's standard for manufacturing excellence and efficiency. Thousands of businesses, some of them in this area, have already been studying and adapting the methods that have made that company the General Motors of the 21st Century. With the interlocking ovals of Toyota's icon rivaling the Latin cross as a symbol of North Mississippians' affections the last couple of weeks, I dare hope there will be a trickle down effect. Possibly non-manufacturing enterprises, health care, and the schools will adapt Toyota's emphasis on continuous improvement, problem solving, employee empowerment, and elimination of waste to produce a more productive economy for the whole region. Exciting, isn't it?
If you knew me, you would already suspect that I harbor some reservations. You would be right.
In the first place, given the type of worker that Toyota seeks, presently existing manufacturing plants can expect to lose their most talented middle and lower management, and their skilled and semi-skilled production people to the siren call of Toyota's wages and reputed job security. Given that existing manufacturers find it difficult to find satisfactory workers, the future does not bode well for marginal enterprises that have about exhausted all their cost-cutting options. Expect a rash of failures of small shops, especially in the furniture industry.
As land speculators and developers are anticipating, there will be a significant population growth in the area. I'm sure Toyota expects it, too. They're no doubt counting on workers moving to the good jobs. Community leaders are already in the preliminary phases of beginning to plan for roads, schools, sewer systems, utilities, etc. Opportunities here for many, so why worry?
The sheriff's staff in my home county could have been counted on one hand when I was young. There are easily four times as many people now to serve approximately the same size population. Just this week, the news showed horrifying clips of a 101-year-old woman being beaten by a mugger in New York. Rest assured, the population surge will contain some of like character to the mugger. So, community planners, include more jails, policemen, substance-abuse clinics, and alternative schools in your calculations. We're gonna need em.
The normal distribution of human intelligence has long been known, though we pretend to ignore that knowledge. (No child left behindÉsigh.) The uneven distribution of other human traits that make productive workers is less predictable, but equally striking. Empathy, loyalty, willingness to follow the leader or to work in teams, attempts to be agreeable or dependable, desire to do the right thingÉsome individuals are completely lacking these traits. Such will either be permanently on the perimeters of society, or predators.
The last few years I taught school, I would meet the school busses each morning, and interact with the children. The little ones thrilled me as they bounded from their busses happy, energetic, and mostly good humored. The more timid would shyly smile at me, while their more boisterous classmates greeted me with a hearty, "Hey, Mr. Scott!" But then there were those who stepped from the busses in silence. The other children were careful not to touch or jostle them. When I spoke to these, they returned only baleful stares - if they acknowledged me at all. Hate-filled glares from six-year-olds are more frightening than anything Stephen King can dream up.
This is nothing new, of course. We have had the socially maladjusted among us, at least since Cain. What goes so horribly wrong to produce people without conscience or the warmth of human affection? Is it in the DNA of their conception, or due to lack of human contact in their tender years, or to some unspeakable and unimaginable horror they have suffered? I don't pretend to know, but I know they are among us, and I suspect that we will see more of them as our population grows.
Toyota's coming. Good thing? Yes, but it is not an unmixed blessing.
You were warned.
Sonny Scott is a community columnist; he lives on Sparta Road in Chickasaw County, and his e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.