BUFFALO, WV (WOWK) – This is one of the engine assembly lines at Toyota Motor Manufacturing West Virginia.
Team members here build four-cylinder engines for Toyota Corollas inside this massive, two million square foot facility in Buffalo, West Virginia in Putnam County.
It’s these employees which drew—at least in part—Toyota’s attention to this part of West Virginia.
“I think there were a couple of other locations they looked at, and finally, based on some benefits, they put it here in Buffalo, and I’m glad they did that because we’ve been really thriving here,” said Srini Matam, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, West Virginia.
Yes, there were some financial incentives, but equally important was the work ethic of the local employees along with the easy access to highways and transportation systems. To date, Toyota has invested $1.8 billion in the plant, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
The workforce started with about 300 employees and is now more than six times larger than that. One of those employees is Christina Cobb. She builds cam housings for four-cylinder engines and has worked here for 20 years.
“It’s a good job. The pay’s good, the benefits are good. The people I work with are awesome,” she said.
In part, because this cornerstone of the community is an integral part of the community.
“My sister-in-law works here, and my brother-in-law and my first cousin and my soon-to-be son-in-law,” Cobb said.
This factory makes engines and transmissions, which are shipped to Toyota assembly plants in Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, and Canada. Last year, the factory began building hybrid transaxles for Toyota hybrid vehicles.
“Basically, a battery drives the motor along with an internal combustion engine, so you get better gas mileage for the vehicle so we are the first ones to make those hybrid transaxles,” Matam said.
Toyota is constantly expanding and upgrading its equipment. The plant will be adding a third shift to this engine production line because of increased demand. This line makes engines for RAV-4s, and that means they’ll be hiring about 100 additional workers.
Matam said having the plant here has helped the economies of Putnam County and the state of West Virginia. He adds that Toyota has also donated $10 million to local non-profit groups since they’ve been there.
“We want to support the human services portion of it, the education side of it, the arts and sciences portion of it and everything else,” Matam said.
And he says that emphasis has contributed to a very low turnover rate.
“I can’t thank enough my team members that come to work every single day, even during the ice storm they came in and made engines and transmissions and they’re the asset, the real asset for our company,” Matam said.
It’s that work ethic that enables this Putnam County facility to build more than a million engines and transmissions a year. Many companies across the country are struggling to find skilled workers, and Toyota says it’s an issue everywhere.
That’s why Toyota goes into local schools to get kids excited about careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The company has also partnered with Bridge Valley Community and Technical College to teach students and provide paid internships.
Watch the video below for an extended interview with Srini Matam.
Click here to find out how you can apply for a job at Toyota.
Read the fact sheet below for more information about the Toyota plant.