Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, the giant development in Huntsville, also had a giant problem.
It needed 4,000 employees at the $1.6 billion facility under construction to produce vehicles for the two Japanese automakers who had come together for one of the largest economic projects in state history.
But it was searching for those 4,000 employees at a time when few were searching for jobs.
Then came the novel coronavirus pandemic and a soaring unemployment rate and, suddenly, Mazda Toyota had a robust labor pool.
Related: AL.com’s coverage of the coronavirus
“I think it’s a win-win situation,” Mark Brazeal, vice president of administration at Mazda Toyota, said Thursday in an interview with AL.com. “Obviously, maybe there’s a bigger pool of labor workforce now. But at the same time, there’s people who need jobs and we’re able to provide that job opportunity to individuals who have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic.
“So it’s really a unique situation that we’re continuing to hire even though we have this pandemic crisis because we’re trying to staff up for future production. It’s a situation where we can offer job opportunities to many more people than needed them six months ago.”
In February, before the impact of the coronavirus began to impact Alabama, the unemployment rate was 2.4 percent in Limestone County – where the plant is being built. To the east in neighboring Madison County, it was 2.3 percent. To the west in neighboring Lauderdale County, it was 3 percent. And to the south in Morgan County, it was 2.4 percent.