March 1, 2012
Toyota to add 80 jobs at Buffalo plant
Chris Dorst
In this Feb. 25, 2011 photo, a worker at Toyota's Putnam County plant works on the transmission assembly line. Toyota announced Thursday that it will add 80 jobs to the Buffalo operation by July 2013.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Toyota will increase production at the company's plant in Putnam County and create 80 jobs, according to the general manager of Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia.

"This shows Toyota Japan believes in us and our team members," Mike Lutz said.

An investment of about $45 million will allow the company, which builds six-speed transmissions for the Avalon, Camry, Lexus RX350, Sienna and Venza, to increase production capacity from about 400,000 to 520,000 beginning in November, according to a news release.

The expansion, which will be done in two phases, Lutz said, is expected to be completed by July 2013 and will raise employment at the Toyota plant in Buffalo to 1,200 and its total investment to $1.3 billion.

Last year, the Buffalo plant celebrated its 15th anniversary. Thursday's announcement marks the seventh time the plant has expanded since it opened, according to the company.

 "What we'll be doing in two phases is increasing the capacity of the line that we announced last year," Lutz said. "Last year we added the machinery and this year we'll increase the capacity."

Eventually, he said, the expansion will allow the plant to produce 10,000 more transmissions per month.

The Buffalo plant is still investigating whether the 80 positions will be permanent or temporary, Lutz said.

The company doesn't hire part-time workers, he said, but that could change.

"We don't use part-time folks now, but in the future that's something we might do," he said. "We have a certain amount of jobs we try to keep flexibility with, whether these will be permanent or not, we'll take the next six months to a year [to decide]."

Lutz said hiring will happen over time, and that an announcement would be made closer to the November production expansion date about when interested employees should apply.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., first met with the chairman of Toyota in Japan in 1986. Ten years later, Toyota announced it would locate a $400 million engine plant in Buffalo with 350 jobs.

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