MARION, Ark. (AP) - The good news finally came again for Marion and Crittenden County.
After the community was passed over for two major projects - a Toyota plant that went to Tupelo, Miss., and a steel plant that went to Alabama - Gov. Mike Beebe on Thursday announced a $70 million expansion of the Hino Motors Ltd. parts plant in Marion.
''People are ecstatic. You know they needed some good news,'' Beebe said after the announcement. ''They needed to know they were headed in the right direction.''
The Marion plant, which makes axles for the Toyota Tundra truck, now employs more than 600 people. Hino began production at the plant last year, opening with 220 employees.
''At least one major company has reinforced that this is a good place to work,'' Beebe said. ''It sends a heck of a message that Arkansans have the ability to produce a high-quality product.''
Hino is Toyota Motor Corp.'s commercial vehicle unit. Beebe visited the Marion plant Thursday to mark the shipment of the plant's 100,000th axle.
''Our Toyota parts business is growing and expanding, and we are growing and expanding our Marion plant to accommodate it,'' said Hino Motors Manufacturing USA President Hideichiro Chikahiro. ''The new Toyota Tundra has been on the market for only four months, so there will be a lot of opportunity for this plant over time.''
Marion Mayor Frank Fogleman said Hino has been a good addition to the eastern Arkansas town.
''Hino is the kind of business we want to attract to Marion and to help grow and prosper in Marion,'' Fogleman said. ''They have exhibited tremendous community spirit, have participated in many community activities and have become a great neighbor and friend as well as providing good jobs for our residents.''