Greensboro-Randolph Megasite ideal for Toyota, Mazda plant, experts say

A huge economic announcement Friday could bring 4,000 jobs to the United States, possibly to the Triad.

Japanese automakers Toyota and Mazda plan to build a $1.6 billion assembly plant.

North Carolina is now the only state in the southeast without a plant. Some experts say the Piedmont Triad has the perfect spot for one at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite.

FOX8 talked to several leaders with the project, who said they did not want to comment on a possible connection between the car companies and the megasite.

The team behind the megasite wants to transform the 1,500-acre property into a fully-fledged automobile manufacturing plant.

After Mazda and Toyota made their announcement, people who support the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, say it could be the perfect fit.

“Obviously it’s going to be very competitive, but I think we have a legitimate shot, I really do,” Keith Debbage said.

Debbage is a geography professor at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro and a former consultant for the megasite project. He says the megasite is already on the radar of manufacturing giants like Toyota and Mazda.

“I would argue we are already a big player,” he said.

Debbage says the megasite has a lot of work left before it could support the plant.

“We’ve already done a lot of really bold and courageous things,” he said. “We’ve already purchased a lot of land in that site. We’ve put in a lot of electrical and rail links. We have water and sewer coming.”

He thinks it’ll be ready by 2021, when the car companies want to break ground.

“We have a geography that’s very comparable to what Toyota wants and I know that our geography can handle that,” Debbage said.

But Toyota already has three other manufacturing facilities in the southeast. To fight for the new plant, Debbage says the governor’s office would need to come up with a big incentive package.

Debbage says the pitch could be a tough sale in a state that doesn’t have an auto manufacturing plant and lacks specialized workers.

“It’s going to be tough to get an auto plant, but I think we do have a history now of really advanced manufacturing, so biotech, pharmaceuticals, electronics, those are all sorts of things that could come our way because of that site,” he said.

That’s why the projects’ leaders are already making pitches to other tech and manufacturing companies. They’re marketing themselves internationally and hoping something bites.

“It’s just a matter of time before we get a big hit,” Debbage said.

While Debbage says an auto plant would provide an unrivaled boost to the economy, not everyone is happy about the megasite’s future.

Neighbors have protested the site’s development for several years. They put up signs near the megasite’s property that read, “No Megasite here.”

Right now, megasite leaders don’t have any upcoming meetings for public comment scheduled.

FOX8 will keep you updated if that changes.

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