Toyota and suppliers to its operations at Georgetown, Kentucky support nearly 30,000 jobs in the state and also poured $1.8 billion in payroll into the economy in 2015.

The automaker’s operations in Indiana also generated an impact of 27,500 jobs, fueled by a $4.6 billion investment, according to a study by the Center for Automotive Research, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based think tank, which Toyota commissioned to analyze its impact on the economies of 19 states and the U.S. The company commissioned a similar study several years ago and wanted to get an update after new rounds of investment, Toyota spokesman Rick Hesterberg said.

“We wanted to take the pulse of what’s going on now” in terms of investment and economic impact, he said.

Toyota has 8,000 employees in Georgetown and assembled 501,746 Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid and Lexus ES350 vehicles in 2016. The company also builds 4- and 6-cylinder engines there. Employees come from 80 Kentucky counties. The study showed that in 2015, with its suppliers and spinoff jobs, the total comes to 29,700 jobs in the state. 

In Indiana, Toyota directly employs 5,300 workers, and its dealers account for about 3,100 additional workers throughout the state. The automaker produced 400,000 Highlanders, Highlander Hybrids, Siennas and Sequoias in 2016, the highest number of vehicles in its 20-year history. Toyota expects to add 400 jobs and invest $600 million at Princeton in two years. That will add production of 40,000 Highlanders a year. Overall, researchers estimated that non-farm earnings for Hoosiers totaled $1.6 billion.

Nationwide, Toyota’s employment impact was 470,100 jobs, with $32.3 billion in private non-farm payroll income.

The company opened its largest facility outside of Japan in Georgetown about 30 years ago after then Gov. Martha Layne Collins pushed for $325 million in incentives to match the Japanese company’s initial $850 million outlay. The latest investment added $360 million and 750 jobs for production of the Lexus. The company this year also will open an engineering center with a test lab with work space for 700 people. Some of the staff already are on site and about 300 will be shifted from offices eventually shutting down in Erlanger, Kentucky.

Terry Gill, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, described the study as “an impressive scorecard” on Toyota’s impact on the state. “Continued investment and expansion such as the addition of Lexus and the new production engineering building in Georgetown, make a powerful impact on our people and our communities.”

Greg Wathen, president of the Economic Coalition of Southwest Indiana, said that the 20-year partnership in Princeton also has had a big impact on the region.

Reporter Grace Schneider can be reached at 502-582-4082 or gschneider@courier-journal.com. 

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