Yorozu Automotive Alabama has started building its $100 million plant in Jasper that will create 300 jobs to supply auto manufacturers with stamped parts.
The company was joined by state and local officials and economic developers Friday to celebrate the start of construction of the new facility on 50 acres in the Jasper Industrial Park.
In addition to the ceremonial groundbreaking, the Yorozu included a Japanese tradition of breaking open a sake barrel. Gov. Robert Bentley, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and other officials donned Japanese coats and toasted with wooden cups of sake from the barrel.
It was a sign that Jasper’s place in the international automotive industry is growing with Yorozu.
“It’s vital to come to rural areas in Alabama,” Bentley said of the industry’s growth in the state. “I think this is very important to this part of the state.”
Akihiko Shido, CEO of Yorozu Corp., praised the teamwork from Alabama and Jasper officials to bring the plant to Walker County.
“I ask for your continued support and look forward to a long and beneficial relationship,” he said.
Billy Luster, chairman of the Walker County Commission, said the Yorozu project is one more reason to feel positive about what is happening in the county.
“I’m more optimistic today about Walker County than I have ever been,” he said.
Interstate 22’s connection to Interstate 65 in Birmingham is almost complete, providing a faster link to Memphis and a corridor for growth that is already taking place.
Jasper Mayor Sonny Posey said the impact I-22 will have on the city is “immeasurable.”
“We’ve got a lot to prove, we’ve got a lot to work with and some of the greatest people in the world and I’m just happy to be a part of what has gone on today,” he said. “I feel really good about where this community is headed.”
Bentley said the automotive industry is driving the state economy today and there is still room for growth.
“The automotive industry, we’re going to continue to grow that,” he said. “The automotive industry is growing every year. In fact, this is the first year, this year we’re producing more than a million automobiles. We’re in the top five as far as states producing automobiles in the country and one of these days we’re going to be No. 1.
Posey said Jasper is already attracting interest from other auto suppliers.
“We had another plant that ties in real closely with Yorozu in town this morning looking at six locations,” he said “We feel like we have a good shot at them locating somewhere close by.”
David Knight, executive director of the Walker County Development Authority, said the county’s available sites coupled with the new link to other metro areas through I-22 is helping boost economic development in the area.
“Bringing Yorozu to Jasper and Walker County is huge,” Knight said. “You heard them talk about the teamwork involved in this project. We hope there will be many more announcements and ceremonies like this to come.”
The 50-acre site Yorozu chose in Jasper Industrial Park was made possible by the creative use of a speculative building program with Alabama Power Company. Instead of building a building with the program, Walker County Development Authority worked with the power company to use those funds to prepare the site for construction.
Knight said having the site prepared was a major factor in landing Yorozu.