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YORK TOWNSHIP, MI-A new $187 million Toyota testing facility, which has just opened here, is one of 330 automotive research and development facilities in Michigan, according to Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Though some in the state have called for more diversification in bringing in new business to the rusting Motor City, leaders here are still ecstatic to open a facility such as this that will employ hundreds of jobs – even though many Southeast Michigan residents resent foreign carmakers as competition.

However, even as General Motors and Chrysler reportedly talk about a possible merger, Granholm said in a speech, during the opening the property, that plants that explore new automotive technologies still play on the natural strength of the Detroit area. “We’re still bullish on our future,” she said in the speech. “We have $10 billion invested in research and development related to the next vehicle and next engine. We know the vehicle as a product evolution is going to happen in Michigan.” She was also on hand three weeks ago in Flint, MI when General Motors unveiled its $836-million expansion plan to product low-mileage cars such as the Chevy Volt.

The new Toyota Technical Center, at more than 500,000 sf here on 70 acres, is an offshoot of the 31-year-old Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc. campus a few minutes north in Ann Arbor, MI. The four-story engineering center will also have the company’s first collision-safety testing facility outside of Japan, and will employ 400 people by the end of 2010. The two facilities will have about 1,100 employees by 2010. The company, which sold 8.7 million vehicles in 2007, is based in Aichi, Japan.

Toyota was provided almost $40 million in incentives for the new plant, and the state pushed through the $11-million sale of the former psychiatric hospital property for the facility. Officials with the automaker said at the opening that the campus reinforces the company’s long-term commitment to the state. “We realize all automakers are going through some challenging times right now, and they’re probably going to last a little longer,” said Bruce Brownlee, senior executive administrator at the new center. “We think it’s really important to celebrate the growth in Michigan. We are also hopeful for the future here.”

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