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In 1967, the first Toyota forklift sold in the United States was purchased by Charles Anderson, a grape farmer in Fresno, California.
The very same half-century-old forklift was parked in a place of honor at Toyota Materials Handling’s Columbus, Indiana, campus as company officials, local politicians, Toyota dealers, and even a few celebrities gathered to commemorate the company’s 50th anniversary of doing business in the US in August.
Parked nearby the Fresno grape farmers original Toyota forklift was another that was painted bright gold to celebrate the company’s golden anniversary.
Legendary Coach Addresses Event
The event, which was held Aug. 30, featured speeches by company officials such as Brett Wood, president and CEO of Toyota Material Handling North America, as well as local dignitaries such as Indiana Commerce Secretary Jim Schellinger.
But the featured speaker was Bobby Knight, the legendary former basketball coach at Indiana University. The coach talked about “how to win” and shared stories of his experiences as one of the most successful, and volatile, college basketball coaches in history.
Leading a media tour of the facility was Tom Lego, customer center manager for Toyota Material Handling, who shared the company’s manufacturing philosophy of “Kaizen”, or continuous improvement, as well as a related concept known as “Monozukuri”, which refers to having the spirit to produce truly excellent products while constantly improving the production system at the same time.
Because no anniversary party would be complete with gifts, Toyota officials announced a series of gifts for attendees, the community, and even local scholars.
Each guest was presented with a miniature version of the golden forklift that served as the centerpiece of the celebration.
But company officials also announced they would be planting 50 cherry trees around the campus, as well as donating an additional 50 cherry trees to the city of Columbus. Plus, Toyota will provide 50 scholarships to local children participating in the city’s parks and recreation programs, providing access to recreational programs.
50 Years of Excellence
Since that first forklift was sold, Toyota has built more than half a million other forklifts in the US. There currently are 1,500 manufacturing, sales, and marketing associates throughout the US, as well as 1,400 employees at the company’s Columbus plant, where three assembly lines build 67 different base models of forklifts.
As for that original forklift, a sign near the well-used vehicle stated that the farmer used it for a variety of rugged outdoor applications over the years, but that it always stood up to the test of time.
“All I ever had to do is perform routine maintenance on it and it runs and runs,” Anderson reportedly told Toyota officials.