How the $1.6B Toyota-Mazda plant came to Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Wednesday's Toyota-Mazda plant announcement came after several months of intense competition from a number of states seeking to lure the $1.6 billion auto plant. In the end, Alabama, Limestone County, and Huntsville prevailed. The deal took a few months to complete, but the groundwork was laid years ago.

The new plant will be in Limestone County and Huntsville. Which sounds like a mistake, but it was, in fact, a careful plan by Huntsville officials, who years earlier sought to expand the city limits by annexing portions of Limestone County.

That led to the development of a TVA mega site in Limestone County which is basically a large turnkey site that's ready to go, complete with utilities, air, interstate and rail access.

The site was attractive to Toyota and Mazda and so was the regional cooperation. The two governments and many others had to reach a deal, to make a deal.

"I also want to thank our regional partners Chairman Mark Yarbrough, of the Limestone County Commission. Mark is my lucky rabbit`s foot, we have not lost one yet, with Mark," said Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle at the announcement on Wednesday.

Yarbrough said Battle led the way and recalled Monday's championship game. "And I think we all found you got to have a quarterback and our quarterback`s Mayor Tommy Battle. Let me tell you, Mayor, I appreciate you brother. The relentless commitment that you show, when you start, is second to none. Now I hope we can kind of cut back on the 430 a.m. phone calls where you tell me, 'Rise and shine, let`s go, it`s a new day.'"

Huntsville City Councilwoman Jennie Robinson said the site was key and so was the united front. "We worked together as a metropolitan community to attract business and I think that is something that very few communities can offer. So it sends a very clear message to those companies, that we're open to business, that we're willing to do business, and that we're going to do it right."