Gov. Kay Ivey is leading a small team of Alabama economic development specialists on a business development mission to Japan for high-level meetings with leaders of global automakers Toyota, Mazda and Honda.
The Alabama delegation is departing for Japan today and will return on Thursday following appointments in Tokyo. The mission’s strategic goal is to facilitate growth in the state’s automotive sector and extend relationships with the manufacturers.
“The auto industry has been a key driver of economic growth in Alabama for two decades, and we want to make sure we’re positioned to see that growth accelerate in coming years,” Ivey said.
“It’s important that we work closely with these automakers to ensure they thrive in Alabama because that will bring more jobs and investment to the state.”
In addition to meeting with executives from the three automakers, the Alabama group will visit the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo to meet with Ambassador Bill Hagerty. There, the discussion is expected to center on the business climate in Japan and unfolding trade developments affecting both countries.
“Ambassador Hagerty was one of the first people to call me and congratulate Alabama on attracting the Toyota-Mazda investment. This meeting shows the importance that Alabama plays on the world stage and I appreciate the work the ambassador does on behalf of our nation,” Ivey said.
“I look forward to the meeting and to working with him to continue the strong relationship between Japan and Alabama.”
The Japan mission comes as the Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA joint venture partnership is beginning to move forward with plans for a $1.6 billion assembly plant in Huntsville that will employ 4,000 people and spawn a significant network of suppliers.
Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the discussions with Mazda and Toyota executives will focus on moving the assembly plant project forward. In addition, the talks will center on how their critical supply chain can be filled out leading up to a planned production launch in 2021.
“While we have a longstanding relationship with Toyota, we’re still developing bonds with Mazda, which has no manufacturing presence in the U.S.,” Canfield said.
“We can use our extensive experience in assisting automakers expand their footprint to help the company build out a productive and efficient operation in Alabama.”
Leaders from Toyota and Mazda announced their decision in January 2018 to open the assembly plant at a site in Huntsville that’s just 14 miles from a Toyota engine plant that has almost 1,400 workers after multiple expansions.
Joining Ivey and Canfield in the meetings with Mazda and Toyota executives will be Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, Tennessee Valley Authority CEO Bill Johnson and Chip Cherry, president and CEO of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce.
Steve Pelham, Ivey’s chief of staff, and Hollie Pegg, assistant director of business development at the Alabama Department of Commerce, will also be included in these meetings.
Ivey, Canfield, Pelham and Pegg will also engage in talks with leaders of Honda, which operates a $2.6 billion assembly plant in Talladega County with 4,500 full-time workers.
In early 2017, Honda announced an $85 million expansion as part of a multi-phase project to improve manufacturing flexibility at the Alabama factory and prepare it for future technologies.
Canfield said the meetingAla with Honda is meant to reinforce Alabama’s strong relationship with the automaker and discuss how the state can support the facility’s new leadership and future growth plans.
“Honda is a very important member of the Alabama automotive manufacturing family, and we’re committed to working closely with this great company as it pursues new levels of success at its Talladega County operation,” he said.
Ivey said she hopes these meetings will lead to additional economic growth for Alabama and more trade between the state and Japan.
This story originally appeared on the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Made in Alabama website.