April 25, 2014 10:33:16 AM
Nathan Gregory - firstname.lastname@example.org
WEST POINT -- On the drive down Eshman Avenue leaving the West Point city limits, there's a bump in the road. At the bump, two bridge pillars and visible construction of a new bypass are on either side.
That road then runs into East Hazelwood Road. A drive down that path reveals a dozen trailers and a sign indicating the site of the future Yokohama Tire manufacturing plant. In the distance, operators of two cranes lift steel beams and place them horizontally on top of each other, creating the frame of what will be a one-million square foot facility. The framework is three stories high.
A little over a year ago, the site was an empty field.
Construction workers from Kajima Associates/Architects and Engineers are working on the plant site while crews from Eutaw Construction are building the four-mile road that will lead to it.
"It is unreal when you look at what all they've got done now," Clay County District 2 Supervisor Luke Lummus said.
Given the cold, wet winter just experienced in the area, Golden Triangle Development LINK CEO Joe Max Higgins said it is impressive that construction is still on schedule for both the site and the road to be done at the end of the year.
"I was starting to get wary, but we're about to the point with the weather where it's not going to screw us up," Higgins said. "The winter is gone and this is good construction weather."
Higgins added that contractors are "bringing in a trailer a week" for temporary offices as different phases of the project are under way.
Yokohama hired Kajima last July as the general contractor for construction of the plant. Eutaw Construction won the road contract with a construction bid of $19,465,284, which was more than $1.5 million below county engineer Bob Calvert's estimate of $20,994,447. Funding for the road comes from the Economic Development Highway Grant Program through the Mississippi Office of State Aid Road Construction. It is part of the $70 million legislative incentive package passed by state legislators last April to bring Yokohama to Clay County and assist the company with the construction of the plant's first phase. Yokohama plans to add three more phases to the plant and have them in operation by 2023. Each phase will be a $300 million company investment. The state will also chip in another $60 million for that work.
Representatives from Kajima and Eutaw could not be reached for comment to provide more details on construction progress.
Not far away from the construction site, people are taking courses at East Mississippi Community College's West Point Workforce Services center to get qualified for one of 500 jobs the project will bring once the first phase of the plant is scheduled begin operations in October 2015.
EMCC workforce specialist Mitzi Thompson has been going to public meetings and church gatherings to get the word out. She said the more she does, the more people will take advantage of what the center has to offer in terms of qualifying people who need work to get it somewhere, if not at Yokohama. Plus, she said, the Yokohama plant will be in Clay County, so she wants to see as many Clay County residents employed there as possible. Right now, there are no empty seats in the basic skills classes that are offered, she said.
"Some people from here are working in other areas and want to come home," Thompson said. "I want them to come home."
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.