Toyota expansion

The Toyota executive who spoke at the annual meeting of the Union County Development Association delivered some sobering news.

Jackie Hogan, human resources general manager at the Toyota plant in Blue Springs, said the company has no plans to expand its plant at the current time.

Rumors have persisted since the plant opened that the plant size would be doubled and an additional model, beyond the current Corolla, would be produced here in Union County.

In a talk about the overall progress of Toyota operations at the plant as well as Toyota employment policies, a recurring thread in the message came through: Toyota is having some difficulty reaching full employment at the current facility.

She said more Corollas could be sold if the plant produced more cars. Team members are working significant amounts of overtime trying to keep up with demand for the vehicle, she said.

Her talk confirmed what has been whispered about among employers in the area for months. We have a shortage of multi-skilled workers, and Toyota, even with its attractive pay rates, has been unable to fill all of its jobs. Employers also have groused quietly about absenteeism and tardiness.

These are significant problems affecting our local economy. The future lies in education, and developing a better-trained workforce that is willing to adhere to increasingly strict attendance and quality standards.

The old ways are not the new ways in a global economy.