And the Toyota rumor is ... outta there

The central Shenandoah Valley has been a hotbed of manufacturing dating back to the 1920s with the arrival of DuPont (now Invista) in Waynesboro. General Electric (now Genicom) set up shop in Waynesboro in the early '50s, with Stuarts Draft getting into the act in the '80s and '90s when Hershey and the McKee Baking Co. (makers of Little Debbie-brand snack cakes) entered the mix.

Retail giants Target (with a distribution center in Stuarts Draft just down the road from McKee) and Wal-Mart (with a distribution center coming in 2005 to Mount Crawford one Interstate 81 exit north of Weyers Cave) arrived on the scene in recent years.

So it was no surprise when rumors of Toyota's plan to build a manufacturing plant in Augusta County began circulating several months ago. And by the time the story came back around again last week, speculation was hot and heavy.

Depending on who was talking, an announcement was either imminent, on the horizon– given that Toyota representatives were expected in town in the coming days to meet with county leaders– or ... whatever.

Moving from rumor to concrete details was not easy.

Kay Frye, chair of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors and the board's representative from the Middle River District (which includes Weyers Cave) was reported to have claimed that a location in Augusta County was in Toyota's crosshairs.

Strike one - Frye says she has heard nothing.

Weyers Cave resident Steve Landes, chairman of the Republican caucus in the Virginia House of Delegates, says, "If it was at all a serious kind of thing, there would be more talk about it than we're hearing right now.

"It first came up to me in the form of 'Hey, have you heard the rumor that Toyota is looking to come to the area?' And it's never gotten beyond that, from what I've been hearing," Landes says.

Strike two.

"As far as I know, nothing of this nature is ongoing right now," says Augusta County administrator Pat Coffield, "but corporations looking for a location to put in an automobile plant or something similar aren't going to be calling Augusta County at the outset. They're going to be working with the state, and we're going to be the last ones to know if something is in the hopper."

Foul tip.

"All of our projects are confidential. So if there was something going on in Augusta County, we wouldn't be allowed to talk about it," says Jill Vaughan, spokesperson for the Virginia Economic Development Partnership in Richmond.

High and outside.

Toyota spokesman Dan Siegel notes, "There's been a lot of speculation about this, and our chairman has said that if sales continue to be as strong as they have been, then consideration would be given to building a North American plant to help meet the demand.

"But at this time, there are no plans to do that, and there are no site searches ongoing at the moment," Siegel says.

A called strike three.

And the Toyota rumor is ... outta there.

Toyos heading for Waynesboro?