WEST POINT — Standing on fresh pavement at the end of a new bridge, Gov. Phil Bryant shivered as he stood at a podium.
“I’m sure there are those who said it will be a cold day when Mississippi gets a plant like this,” Bryant told a crowd that had gathered. “Well, here we are.”
The governor was in the middle of Yokohama Boulevard, a new, four-mile road that connects Highway 45 Alternate to Barton Ferry Road and provides direct access from the highway to Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi. The $20 million road was officially opened at a ceremony Wednesday.
The road is part of the $300 million phase one of the Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi development. Officials from Yokohama, the Golden Triangle Development LINK, Clay County and the city of West Point joined Bryant as he cut the red ribbon stretched across the pavement.
He told the crowd this was the first big project his administration and the Mississippi Development Authority had undertaken when he took office in 2012. He reflected on what the project meant to him and the MDA.
“We could not fail,” Bryant said. “We could not lose this.”
The plant is estimated to bring 500 jobs to the Golden Triangle by the end of phase one. Yokohama Tire Manufacturing Mississippi President Tadaharu Yamamoto told the crowd the plant already has more than 100 employees, including eight from Japan. Around 400 manufacturing jobs with the plant became open for applicants last week.
The plant is on schedule to start production in October.
“I believe our success is not only for us,” Yamamoto said. “It connects to the success of the community.”
Success of the community was also a point of emphasis for Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins and Bryant.
“It’s so exciting because we know lives will be changed by the jobs that will be made available here,” Bryant told The Dispatch. “Clay County and West Point was in such dire need — some of the highest unemployment rates in the state of Mississippi. It was the perfect location for us to be able to place this plant.”
Yokohama Boulevard, officials said, was critical to getting the plant to West Point.
“One of the first things that we identified as a need for this site was an alternative route of access,” Higgins said.
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