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Small Town Grows Big Business for 25 Years

Southeast Toyota Distributors Celebrates "25 Years of Growing Good" in Commerce, Ga.

Click here to download photos from Southeast Toyota’s 25-year anniversary celebration event

Twenty-five years ago Joe Frank Harris, then governor of Georgia, ceremoniously dug into what was at the time just a vast field of dusty, orange clay. Today, that Commerce, Ga., location is home to the thriving processing center of Southeast Toyota Distributors, which has since processed and distributed nearly 2 million vehicles for Toyota and Scion dealerships throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.

At a recent event, Southeast Toyota celebrated the 25th anniversary of its facility with a presentation commemorating “25 Years of Growing Good” and a special donation for a new pavilion at Commerce’s Veterans Memorial Park. Mayor Clark Hill, who is also the company’s onsite Health & Wellness Center physician, honored Southeast Toyota with a proclamation from the City of Commerce for its economic and philanthropic contribution to the small but flourishing community where the vehicle processing center opened.

“After 10 years of working for JM Family and Southeast Toyota, I’ve learned that the best part of getting is giving back, and our associates generously donate their time and talents to this community,” Hill said. “This company recognized the charm and potential of our little town. Call it luck, but I think the City of Commerce hit the jackpot when Southeast Toyota chose us.”

Also in attendance were Southeast Toyota associates, executives, its philanthropic partners, and local and state officials, including Jackson County State Representative Tommy Benton.

The company that established roots in Commerce in 1989 with only 15 associates processing 17,000 Toyotas annually now employs over 200, who work on more than 130,000 vehicles a year. Like its Jacksonville operations, Southeast Toyota’s Commerce Inland Processing center sorts and delivers vehicles installed with accessories, such as leather seats, spoilers, roof racks, alloy wheels, entertainment systems, security systems and more.    

“We owe the amazing growth of our company to our hard-working and dedicated associates, and to the support of this community which has been a great partner in our success,” said Colin Brown, President and CEO of parent company JM Family Enterprises. “We had no doubt that when we chose Commerce as our home in 1989, we chose the right place.”

Automotive legend Jim Moran founded JM Family and Southeast Toyota in 1968, partnering with Toyota Motor Sales to strengthen the automaker’s U.S. presence by establishing a processing and distribution facility in Jacksonville, Fla. Later the diversified automotive company expanded its vehicle distribution operations by opening the northern Georgia Inland Processing center in Commerce.

The center primarily processes vehicles for distribution to Toyota dealers in northern Alabama, the Carolinas and northern Georgia. The 300-acre complex now includes six buildings, 50 acres of pavement and six rail spurs, which offer accessibility to Toyotas manufactured in Georgetown, Ky.; Princeton, Ind.; San Antonio, Texas; and Tupelo, Miss.; as well as plants in Cambridge, Ontario and Baja California, Mexico.

“When we were considering locations to expand our distribution efforts, we needed to find a place with the greatest growth potential while remaining central to Toyota’s manufacturing plants and our southeast operations,” said Ed Sheehy, President of Southeast Toyota. “Commerce not only met those business needs, but the area had a hometown feel that aligned with our company’s focus on family and the community.”

JM Family’s corporate philanthropic programs include a volunteer initiative called What A Difference A Day Makes! that allows associates to participate in local projects across the company. Since 2000, the company has donated almost $1 million to 46 nonprofit organizations in the Commerce area. As of 2001, more than 100 Commerce associates have donated 2,272 hours at 70 different company-sponsored volunteer events.

JM Family Enterprises, Inc., is a $12.5 billion automotive company ranked No. 27 on Forbes’ list of “America’s Largest Private Companies.” It is also ranked No. 37 by FORTUNE® as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work For,” its 16th consecutive year on the list. JM Family has approximately 4,000 associates and its primary subsidiaries include: Southeast Toyota Distributors, the world’s largest independent distributor of Toyota and Scion vehicles; World Omni Financial Corp., a diversified financial services company; JM&A Group, one of the leading independent providers of finance and insurance (F&I) products in the automotive industry; JM Lexus, the largest volume Lexus dealership in the world; and JM Service Center LLC, the company’s internal shared services center. Headquartered in Deerfield Beach, Fla., JM Family has major U.S. operations in Jacksonville and Margate, Fla.; Commerce and Alpharetta, Ga.; Mobile, Ala. and St. Louis, Mo., in addition to offices in Mississauga, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec. Interact with JM Family at Facebook.com/JMFamilyEnterprises.