Gov. Mike Beebe at a news conference this afternoon said Arkansas was in the hunt until not much more than a day before Toyota’s decision that it would put a new assembly plant in Tupelo, Miss., instead of Marion, Ark. He said the clincher was Toyota’s concern about air quality standards in Arkansas and the potential impact of a pending federal court case on the standards. Arkansas has worked hard on that issue, but has little control over the major source of pollution — Memphis, truck traffic, prevailing air patterns.
(NOTE: Read on for the Elvis connection.)
Beebe also said Toyota didn’t seem to place high emphasis on special state incentives, though Arkansas offered some $200 million in incentives and site improvements.
Warwick is coming with video. [UPDATE: Video posted at the Arkansas Times video blog.]
UPDATE: Roby Brock at Talk Business quotes a Toyota exec as saying the environment wasn’t the issue in Arkansas. So, what was? A list of things.
Mark it down. Fair or foul, somebody is going to blame the loss of the Toyota plant on the Beebe administration’s change of leadership at AEDC. That Toyota wanted to continue working with the leaders they’d been working with.
UPDATE 2: Roby Brock called to say he just got off the phone with Dennis Cuneo, the site selection consultant for Toyota. Cuneo confirmed that Marion was rejected because of environmental issues — specifically the lawsuit Beebe cited. The EPA has the Marion site on “non-attainment” status, and apparently the EPA is about to put the Chattanooga site on “non-attainment” status as well. The only site without such a problem is Tupelo, which is why Toyota is putting its plant there.
UPDATE 3: Here’s a link to the U.S. court of appeals ruling in late December that Beebe mentioned.
UPDATE 4: Ernie Dumas, in an editorial written for The Leader in North Pulaski, posits a reason why Tupelo got the nod. We don’t think Garrick Feldman will mind if we can’t wait until there’s a link to his website to share it. Check it out on the jump. Answer to the Toyota riddle? Elvis. Read it, please. Dumas waxes lyrical.