TUPELO, Miss., Feb. 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour joined Toyota (NYSE: TM) officials today to announce that the company has chosen a 1,700-acre site in Blue Springs, Mississippi to build its eighth North American vehicle assembly plant. The new plant, to be located just outside of Tupelo, will have the capacity to build 150,000 vehicles annually of Toyota's popular Highlander sport utility vehicle. Production is scheduled to begin by 2010. The new plant represents a $1.3 billion investment by Toyota and is expected to create approximately 2,000 new jobs for the region and indirectly create work for many more. Operations at the plant will include stamping, body weld, plastics, paint, and assembly. Governor Barbour, speaking at a news conference held in Tupelo, welcomed Toyota's decision to set up operations in Mississippi. "We in Mississippi and especially North Mississippi are excited to have been chosen by Toyota as its partner," said Governor Barbour. "Toyota is the world's premiere auto manufacturer and our state will be the best partner the company has." Toyota manufacturing Executive Vice Presidents, Gary Convis and Ray Tanguay, joined Governor Barbour at the announcement to help deliver the good news to local citizens. Convis addressed Toyota's challenge in balancing rapid growth while maintaining the company's superior quality standards, noting the recent start up of Tundra production in San Antonio and upcoming launch of Camry production at the Subaru plant in Lafayette, Indiana. "We are excited for the opportunity to do business in Mississippi and are confident the team members here will have a commitment to perform at the highest possible level," he said. "Governor Barbour and the regional economic development team were very convincing and unrelenting in their efforts to showcase the area's advantages," Convis said, while acknowledging that competition among several states for the new plant was tough. Tanguay also pointed out several factors that led to Toyota's site selection decision. "On my visits to Northern Mississippi, I have talked with area companies and observed their workforce," said Tanguay. "What I observed were people who are educated, ethical and friendly with a strong work ethic -- a perfect match for the Toyota Way." He added that the area's existing companies had high praise for the workforce. "They were definitely the best sales people." Convis and Tanguay both recognized the contributions of the team who worked on bringing Toyota's fifth vehicle assembly plant to the U.S., citing the team effort put forth by state and local officials and the private sector. "The partnership of all of these groups was instrumental to our decision, including the creation of a new rail district to provide competitive rail access for the plant," said Tanguay. "We're honored that Toyota has chosen to invest in our state and grow with Mississippians," said Trent Lott, Senator of Mississippi. "This is a partnership between one of the world's best companies, and a state which has already proven itself capable of attracting the world's top defense, automotive and aerospace jobs." Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran and Congressman Roger Wicker also participated in the announcement. Site preparation and construction for the plant is scheduled to begin later this spring. A majority of the hiring will take place closer to the start of vehicle production. Outline of Toyota Mississippi Location Blue Springs, Mississippi (outside of Tupelo) Plant overview Vehicle production (stamping, body weld, plastics, paint and assembly) Product Toyota Highlander Production capacity 150,000 units/year Site area 1,700 acres Investment $1.3 billion Start of production By 2010 Employment 2,000 Toyota currently operates six vehicle assembly plants with one under construction in North America. These include: - Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK), in Georgetown produces the Avalon, Camry, Camry Hybrid, and Camry Solara. - Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, Inc. (TMMC), in Cambridge, Ontario produces the Corolla, Matrix and Lexus RX 350. - Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, Inc. (TMMI), in Princeton produces the Tundra, Sequoia, and Sienna. - New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), a joint venture with General Motors in Fremont, California, produces the Corolla and Tacoma and Pontiac Vibe. - Toyota Motor Manufacturing de Baja California (TMMBC), in Tijuana, Mexico, produces the Tacoma and Tacoma truck beds. - Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Texas, Inc. (TMMTX), in San Antonio produces the Tundra. - And beginning in 2008, a new plant in Woodstock, Ontario will produce the RAV4. Also, Toyota this spring will start producing Camrys at Subaru of Indiana Automotive (SIA) in Lafayette, Indiana. Additionally, Toyota has four engine plants in North America including: - Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia, Inc. (TMMWV), in Buffalo produces four-cylinder and V6 engines and automatic transmissions. - TMMK produces four-cylinder and V6 engines. - TMMC assembles four-cylinder engines. - Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Alabama, Inc. (TMMAL), produces V6 and V8 engines. To view the announcement on a live web cast, log on and register at: http://www.iian.ibeam.com/events/mdlk001/21770 The announcement will also be available via satellite at the following coordinates: Galaxy 11; Transponder 13K. Toyota (NYSE: TM) established operations in North America in 1957. In 2009, Toyota will have the annual capacity to build approximately 2.16 million cars and trucks, 1.45 million engines and 600,000 automatic transmissions in 15 plants across North America. There are more than 1,700 Toyota, Lexus and Scion dealerships in North America, which sell more than 2.8 million vehicles a year. Toyota directly employs more than 41,000 people in North America. With today's announcement, Toyota's investment in North America is valued at nearly $19 billion.