Toyota hopes to have its Triad battery plant operational by 2025, creating at least 1,750 jobs. 2 Wants To Know discovered that the success of our local economy doesn’t have to stop there. Toyota built an engine plant in Huntsville, Alabama in 2001. Since then, the company has expanded that plant five times. Huntsville has even just landed a second Toyota-Mazda plant. So how did the community convince them to keep growing?
At the Huntsville, Alabama Chamber of Commerce, as a sign of respect for Toyota, they learned a lot about Japanese business customs.
“One of the important things to remember is that your business card is an extension of yourself. And therefore, the person treats it as an extension of them. One thing is, it doesn’t belong in your pants pocket,” said House President and CEO Chip Cherry. “If you take it out of your hip pocket and sit on it and if you place their card in your hip pocket and sit on it then that is a reflection of how you respect them and how they should respect you. That’s why you’ll see them in business card holders. »
Cherry also has a Japanese version of his card which he has used on several trips to headquarters.
“If you’re going to Japan for a business meeting, you might spend several days there visiting cultural sites to understand their activities and nuances,” he said. “Just as we want them to understand the nuances of the sweetened tea line. So if you order tea it will be sweetened tea unless you go north then it will be unsweetened tea. weird little things like that.
These trips helped Huntsville leaders make the town more attractive to the Toyota corporate team. They worked with the University of Alabama to develop a Saturday school for Japanese children.
“The Japanese must maintain their skills. Children in Asia go to school six days a week. This story of five days a week is foreign to them. It’s a lot tougher than what our kids go through,” Cherry said.
They hired translators who helped new employees navigate the driver’s license process.
“Housing is an example,” Cherry said. “If you come here from Japan to get housing, you don’t have a credit history. So how do you do that? How do you get the utilities? So we had conversations with units so that ‘they can give that up so they can move forward to get a house, get an apartment, get utilities. Working with owners of apartment complexes where they could set aside a block of flats , where they would give up some of the deposits, where it could be guaranteed by the company. These are nuisances that are lost to people because they go “go, go, go, go”, a bit. And I think that’s why some communities are successful in cultivating long-term relationships and others are not.
Cherry thinks the Triad is on the right track. In 2018, our region lost the Toyota-Mazda plant to Huntsville. Only to land the Toyota battery factory three years later.
“I think you can be very proud that your team didn’t give up,” Cherry said. “They sat down and said, ‘What have we learned from this? How are we positioning ourselves for long-term success? And it’s pretty obvious that they took their time cultivating that relationship in search of the next project.
Another sign of promise. Inside Toyota’s boardroom in Huntsville, there’s a picture that says, “Growing up to achieve the dream.” This is the kind of growth that we hope will continue in the Triad for decades to come.