The Toyota Alabama engine plant marked its 15th anniversary last week, celebrating an era that has brought great growth in size, skill and significance for the Huntsville facility and its workforce.

The $864 million plant has expanded four times since its groundbreaking in summer 2001, and now produces six times as many engines as it did at its 2003 startup. The lineup has grown from one V-8 engine model to a variety of 4-cylinder, V-6 and V-8 engines.

To date, Toyota Alabama has produced more than 4.5 million engines overall, and the 5 million mark is expected early next year.

“The complexity and the sophistication of the operation here has really grown, and so has the ability, capability and mindset of our team members,” Toyota Alabama President Jim Bolte said. “It’s been good to see them mature and take on bigger challenges and more challenges every time we go through an expansion.”

3,000 engines per day

The Huntsville plant, the only Toyota facility that produces 4-cylinder, V-6 and V-8 engines under one roof, occupies a strategic position in the supply chain for the global automaker.

The facility provides engines for eight of the 12 Toyota vehicles built in North America, and it has the largest engine production capacity for the company in the region.

“There’s always the possibility we can build more,” Bolte said, but he added that decisions about new products or expansions are made in Japan. The plant focus is on keeping up with current demand.

“Sales are very strong for Toyota, and we love our customers. We’re building a little less than 3,000 engines a day right now, and we’re working some weekends to keep up with demand,” Bolte said.

The Toyota Alabama engine plant has about 1,350 employees, and has more than 1 million square feet of production space.

Bolte said Toyota has received great support from the community in Huntsville and Madison County, as well as federal, state and local governments.

“We look forward to the next 15 years,” he said.

Marking a milestone

Toyota is including the community in its anniversary celebration.

The company hosted the “Toyota Summer Rev,” a free concert featuring Craig Morgan and Thompson Square, July 30 in the Von Braun Center North Hall parking lot.

To mark the milestone, Toyota donated $15,000 to the Food Bank of North Alabama and Free2Teach, an initiative that provides free school supplies to Madison County teachers.

“We were looking for a fun and different way to engage with the community that we haven’t done before,” said Kim Ogle, a spokeswoman for Toyota Alabama. “We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate this milestone than to include everyone who has helped us get to the 15-year mark.”

Bolte gives the most credit to the employees.

“I’m impressed with their perseverance, effort and level of thinking when it comes to problem-solving and getting projects done,” he said. “I’m very proud of them, and this 15th anniversary is really a testament to the good work they’re doing.”

This story originally appeared on the Made in Alabama website.