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International Companies Influence Culture, Economy in Tupelo, MS

GRAMMER and Toyota are pacesetters in companies moving to Tupelo and bringing not only jobs, but also a richness of cultural influences.

By Phil Newman on May 14, 2014

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi
Tupelo / Josh Haley Studio

Even as a teen, Myra Goodwin has noticed a change in her hometown of Tupelo over the past few years: a welcome influx of people from other nations.

“I like seeing all of the viewpoints from people who have moved here, and the different cultural traditions,” says Goodwin, who works at Simply Sweet By Margarete, a bakery owned by German transplant Ursula Margarete Garner.

Garner, in fact, was tapped by the Community Development Foundation to provide translation services when German company GRAMMER AG officially announced plans to relocate its U.S. headquarters to Lee County from Wisconsin by the end of 2014.

For her part, Garner says Lee County’s international community “is definitely going to grow,” adding to an already robust presence that includes Japanese, Hispanic, Irish and British members of the community.

A Seat of Commerce

GRAMMER, whose U.S. operation makes seats for agriculture industry vehicles and long-haul trucks, is moving to Lee County because of its “many advantages” over other regions, says Ralf Hoppe, vice president for investor relations, communications and marketing.

Among them, he says: proximity to major customers, infrastructure, a skilled workforce with training facilities, an attractive investment environment for automotive and commercial suppliers, and support from regional and local officials.

The company not only plans to bring 650 jobs to area but also to become deeply involved in the community.

“As a global-acting corporation, we are fully aware of our responsibility for our employees and communities,” Hoppe says. “Our relationship with all of our partners is characterized by mutual respect, openness, honesty and fairness. GRAMMER is very proud to be a new member of the Lee County business community, and we will work very hard not to disappoint the expectations in us.”

Going Places

The pacesetter among large companies moving to Lee County is Toyota, which employs some 2,000 employees who produce 150,000 Corollas annually at its $800 million plant in Blue Springs, Miss. Toyota opened the plant in 2011.

“A large portion of North Mississippi’s workforce is in the manufacturing sector, and the quality of workforce was a very important factor for Toyota when deciding where its 14th plant in North America would call home,” says Sean Suggs, vice president for administration and production control for Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Mississippi.

Another key to the automaker’s selection of Lee County was access to vocational centers and universities that support training for team members.

“It is now proven that Northeast Mississippi has the talent to ensure our success,” Suggs says.

Toyota’s leadership strives to support its workers in becoming engaged in local communities. The company’s employees bring “different work styles, values and beliefs,” Suggs says. “Through our commitment to respect for others, we will continue enriching lives in the communities where we operate and where our team members live.”

Sweetness Abounds

As for Garner of Simply Sweet by Margarete, the native German can’t blame companies like Toyota and GRAMMER for locating in her adopted hometown.

“It is a great place to live, and the people are extremely friendly,” she says. “Southern hospitality is very real here.”

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