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Toyota Exec, ODU Alumnus Wil James, to Give Talk at Lambert's Point Community Center

Norfolk native and Old Dominion University alumnus Wilbert W. "Wil" James will speak about growing up in Lambert's Point and his journey to becoming the president of Toyota's largest manufacturing plant outside of Japan at 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at the Lambert's Point Community Center, 1251 W. 42nd St., Norfolk.

Sponsored by ODU's Office of Community Engagement, the talk is free and open to the public. It is the first in what will be a quarterly speaker series through the expansion of the university's Lambert's Point Summer Programs for area youngsters.

James, the president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc., received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering technology from ODU in 1977. Following graduation, he embarked on a journey that has taken him to three other states and, in 2010, landed him as president of the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Ky.

After working at two other companies, James first came to Toyota's Georgetown plant in 1987. With a background in mechanical engineering, he could have commanded a more senior role. "But I asked to start as a first-line supervisor," James said. "I wanted to get management experience, and really learn about the people I work with. Because that's what Toyota is all about."

Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. (TMMK) employs nearly 7,000 people, and is the North America manufacturing site for Toyota vehicles such as the Avalon, Camry, Camry Hybrid and Venza. In his role as president, James is also responsible for overseeing the startup of a Toyota assembly plant in Mississippi, and supports a Subaru assembly line in Indiana.

During his first tour at TMMK, James worked his way up the management ladder. He was named vice president of manufacturing in 2003, responsible for overseeing all vehicle manufacturing as well as production control. He was also general manager of assembly, responsible for engineering, maintenance, production and internal parts conveyance for TMMK's two assembly lines, along with the plant's plastics organization.

After nearly 20 years at TMMK, James joined TABC, a parts component operation and a wholly owned subsidiary of Toyota, in Long Beach, Calif., in 2006 as senior vice president of operations; a year later, he was named president. A brief rotation to Toyota's Indiana plant set the stage for his return to Kentucky last summer.

As the first African American to lead TMMK, James has made an effort to reach out and be a role model. One of his first appearances as president was as the keynote speaker for Toyota's 21st Opportunity Exchange in Cincinnati. The Opportunity Exchange, Toyota's own unique annual trade fair and conference, has generated $160 million in minority contracts since its start 20 years ago, according to the company.

During his visit to Norfolk, James will also receive a Distinguished Alumni Award from the Old Dominion University Alumni Association.

For more information about his talk, call 683-5759.

This article was posted on: September 29, 2011

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