Friday, March 02, 2007

Toyota, Tupelo, and the AFA

Both Arkanasas and Tennessese lost the two billion dollar Toyota plant they had been angling to get for at least five years. Instead, Tupelo Mississippi came out of nowhere to get the plant at the last minute. The official reason was that the other sites had ozone levels that were too high. Maybe, but Toyota had known about that for sometime and never harped on it before. It does not sound like an insurmountable problem, just a PC excuse for choosing a city that has far worse transportaion infrastructure than Marion.

This is just speculation on my part, but I wonder if the American Family Association didn't have something to do with this decision, on many levels. They are the large Christian-leaning Pro-Family group headquartered in Tupelo. Among their assets is a string of Christian radio stations, including 14 of the biggest in Arkansas.

The AFA is sponsoring a boycott of Ford Motor Company because of the latter's promotion of the "homosexual agenda" and other infractions. Southern family people are some of Ford's best customers. They are one of the few groups who have stayed loyal to the "buy American" concept. But many of them also listen to AFA. AFA has scored victories against Walt Disney, and K-Mart. Even mighty Wal-Mart quickly made changes in some of their policies when AFA threatened a boycott. Ford was not that smart, they dug their heels in against the AFA's entreaties. My guess is that a sustained boycott is more valuable to Toyota than any financial incentive our state could offer to get that plant. If only 100,000 fewer Fords are bought because of the boycott- and about seven times that many people have already signed AFA's "Boycott Ford" petition, then it will cost Ford three billion dollars in revenue. A good chunk of that revenue could come Toyota's way. At the very least, the loss of that revenue could hamstring a major rival.

So maybe the Japanese are thinking strategically. But another way the AFA could have influenced the decision is in the cultural effect they represent in Tupelo. That is, Tupelo is the kind of town one might expect to be the HQ of the "American Family Association". It is clean, orderly, and attractive. There is nothing dirty or seedy about it. It is full of friendly, hardworking people from happy homes. The fruit of the moral choices that the residents of the city make manifests itself in a number of ways. It's an attractive town with a wholesome feel.

These are not politically correct reasons to choose one town over another. One would not expect the Japanese to announce these reasons as factors, even if they were. Instead, environmental and regulatory concerns would serve as PC reasons.

In our recent elections, Arkansans opted against a more values-driven ticket in favor of what they perceived as a business-oriented ticket who could "get the job done". There is not a doubt in my mind that if the people of Tupelo had been the only voters in our elections that they woulod have choosen the opposite candidates. How ironic it would be if Arkansas in part lost this multi-billion dollar business project because the secular and Shinto Japanese liked what they saw from the Christian-affected Tupelo culture and the political activism of the AFA.


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