In 1967, Toyota sold its very first forklift in the United States, to a grape farmer in Fresno, Calif. Fifty years later, Toyota is the best-selling forklift in the country, with 800,000-plus forklifts sold in the U.S. to date—more than half a million of them manufactured on U.S. soil.
On August 30, Toyota Material Handling North America Inc. (TMHNA); subsidiaries Toyota Material Handling U.S.A. Inc. (TMHU) and Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing Inc. (TIEM); and parent company Toyota Industries Corp. (TICO) celebrated a half century of serving the U.S. market at a golden anniversary ceremony at Toyota's U.S. North American headquarters in Columbus, Ind. The event brought together company executives and associates, dealers, and state and local government officials to highlight several company milestones and recognize the role associates and dealers played in the forklift maker's success. TMHU provides a full range of forklifts, automated guided vehicles, work platforms, tow tractors, and fleet management services.
Toyota Forklift's continual growth was clearly evident at the Columbus campus, which has seen 13 expansions, including manufacturing, storage, logistics, training, showroom, and office space, since it opened in 1990. More construction is on the way; Toyota earlier this year announced plans for a $17.5 million, 150,000-square-foot expansion that will bring the campus' total space to 1.3 million square feet. Toyota recently opened a health-and-wellness facility that includes a medical office, pharmacy, a variety of athletic facilities, and other services that are open to employees and their families.
To mark the golden anniversary, Toyota associates custom-designed and built a gold-painted forklift. The unique lift truck was parked outside the event next to the first forklift sold in the U.S., which Toyota bought back from the farmer several years ago. (According to Toyota, it still runs.)
In honor of the strong relationship between Indiana and Japan, Toyota will plant 50 Japanese cherry trees on its campus and will donate 50 more to the city of Columbus. To demonstrate its continuing commitment to the local community, Toyota also donated 50 camp scholarships to the Columbus Department of Parks and Recreation. In 2015, in honor of its 25th year of manufacturing in Indiana, the company donated an indoor youth soccer facility to the city.
Topping off the day's celebration was a keynote by Bob Knight, basketball coach at Indiana University from 1971 to 2000 and later at Texas Tech. The mercurial Knight, who won more than 900 games in his career, spoke about what it takes to win and be successful.