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Why Are Global Companies Moving to Athens, AL?

A variety of great resources help international businesses feel right at home in Limestone County.

By Bill Lewis on February 21, 2023

Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing in Limestone County, AL
Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing

Companies from around the world are investing billions of dollars and creating hundreds of jobs in Athens and Limestone County.

They include Mazda Toyota Manufacturing (MTM) of Japan, BOCAR US of Mexico, Indorama from India and Aviagen North America of Germany.

“There is a wonderful quality of life across North Alabama including Limestone County. One common statement our Japanese staff continuously speak of is the Southern hospitality that is demonstrated here in Limestone County,” says Mark Brazeal, MTM’s vice president for administration.

“Our Japanese staff loves engaging in the local culture, whether it is enjoying barbecue at a local restaurant, playing golf or attending one of the many fairs in the area. Personally, I have visited Japan many times and have always felt very welcome in Japan. As a native Alabamian, I am proud our Japanese families feel welcome here in Limestone County.”

Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing has created approximately 4,000 jobs in Limestone County, AL.
Mazda-Toyota Manufacturing

Creating Jobs in Athens and Limestone County

MTM alone has created 3,400 jobs so far, and it’s on its way to around 4,000 employees by the middle of 2023. MTM’s $2.3 billion plant has the capacity to manufacture 300,000 vehicles per year. Add the jobs created by local service providers and parts suppliers, many of them international businesses themselves, and the number of positions directly attributed to MTM reached almost 6,500 as of late 2022.

International companies making foreign direct investment (FDI) in Limestone County include France’s EFI Automotive and Japan-based YKTA (Y-tec Keylex Toyotetsu Alabama), American Leakless Co., Asahi Kasei Plastics North America, Coilplus Alabama Inc., TRIS and TBAKI SAIA.

International staff members and their families find a variety of programs and resources that make them feel at home. Japanese Saturday School in Huntsville uses textbooks directly from Japan to teach math and Japanese language lessons in grades 1-9. Students, who must be Japanese or the equivalent, are given large amounts of homework.

The Alabama Germany Partnership (AGP) is a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening educational, business, cultural and social relationships among individuals and organizations with ties to both Alabama and Germany.

Building Relationships

The Japan-America Society of Alabama (JASA) is a private, nonprofit association in its third decade of encouraging and developing friendship and understanding between individuals who embrace the business, culture and education of Japan and the U.S.

Meanwhile, the North Alabama International Trade Association (NAITA) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission of providing international trade advocacy, training and networking to promote economic growth in North Alabama.

Other resources include the Alabama International Trade Center and the Alabama Department of Commerce’s Office of International Trade.

Why Limestone County?

Limestone County has what global businesses are looking for, including a vibrant international community, a dedicated workforce, a location along Interstates 65 and 565, and quick access to Huntsville International Airport.

CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads serve the county, says Bethany Shockney, president of the Limestone County Economic Development Association.

Relationships matter, too. Toyota Motor Corp. has an engine plant in Alabama. When the time came to pick a site for the partnership with Mazda, Limestone County stood out.

“The engine plant had been in operations for over 15 years and had developed very strong partnerships with elected officials, local universities, two-year colleges, school systems, business support agencies, such as chambers of commerce, and nonprofit organizations within the local communities and the state of Alabama,” Brazeal says.

“Additionally, at the state level, Toyota had developed strong partnerships with the state of Alabama including the Department of Commerce, AIDT and the state House of Representatives members who represent North Alabama. These positive relationships gave Mazda and Toyota confidence that MTM would receive the strong support that was needed during a large-scale project,” he says.

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