A success story
Earlier this month, we celebrated some remarkable news in West Virginia. Hino Motors, a subsidiary of Toyota, announced that it is locating a full-scale truck assembly plant in Wood County. This isn't only an infusion to that area's local economy and great news on the job front, it's also a testament to what so many outside businesses have come to learn – West Virginia is a great place to do business.
West Virginia is enjoying incredible success with international companies. In particular, the relationship between our state and Japan has continued its strong and steady growth in recent years – a partnership that really took off back in 1996 when, after 15 years of encouraging them to come to West Virginia, Toyota decided to build an engine plant in Putnam County. Since that time, hard-working West Virginians have made our plant in Buffalo an unrivaled success, and a source of pride.
For five straight years, the Buffalo plant was named the most productive automotive plant in the United States by the Harbour Report, which is the industry's benchmark for quality. I believe the lion's share of credit for that success goes directly to our rock-solid work force and in particular those Toyota team members working in Putnam County. As a result of their hard work, the folks who have built those engines and made that plant run so productively have also strengthened our relationship with Toyota.
Over ten years ago, the company initially invested $400 million in the factory and employed about 300 people. But through a number of expansions since that time, Toyota has brought their total investment to more than $1 billion and created more than 1,200 jobs.
And our Toyota plant is growing in a number of other ways as well. The plant began making the new V6 engines in January, and had the fastest ramp-up to full production of any engine plant in the Toyota system. These engines are going into the Lexus RX330, the Toyota Sienna and the Toyota Avalon. In addition, the plant is beginning new six-speed transmission production this summer.
Toyota has certainly set the standard for success with international companies in our state, but they aren't the only Japanese company we've come to partner with. In fact, we have 19 Japanese companies in West Virginia.
In recent years, we've seen new automotive-related companies, including Nippon Thermostat and AK of West Virginia, come to our state; and we've seen significant expansions at many of our existing companies, including Diamond Electric, NGK Sparkplugs and KS of West Virginia.
Through these companies, our state is now home to a wide array of automobile production facilities. We're producing engines, transmissions and thermostats in Putnam County. We're stamping sheet metal and making parts for oxygen sensors in Ravenswood. We're producing ignition coils in Eleanor. We're making sparkplugs in Sissonville. And now, we'll be fully assembling heavy-duty trucks in Williamstown.
Each time you see an announcement like the one Hino Motors recently made, what you're really seeing are more sound investments in our state, more jobs for West Virginians – and further validation that West Virginia is a viable competitor in the global marketplace.
Our workers have never let anyone down. With that in our back pocket, our state's future can only get brighter.