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If everything goes according to plan, a forest will surround TG Kentucky in 20 years.
In order to make that happen, however, factory officials are hoping to get some help from 3,000 volunteers from Marion and surrounding counties.
“This is not a landscaping project,” Tim Smith told Leadership Lebanon participants on Friday.
Smith is the senior general manager of TG Kentucky’s functional division. He has also been assigned to lead the afforestation project, and he has given the same presentation to several local groups over the last few months.
For TG Kentucky and its parent company, Toyoda Gosei, this project is about doing something for the community. Smith explained that six billion trees are cut down on average each year and only around 1.5 billion trees are planted annually. This project is a small way the company is hoping to replace some of those lost trees.
Toyoda Gosei started its tree-planting efforts in 2009, which was the company's 60th anniversary. Chairman Hajime Wakayama endorsed the project after meeting Professor Akira Miyawaki, who has planted more than 40 million trees at 1,700 locations worldwide.
Since their introduction, Wakayama pushed to plant at least 600,000 trees at Toyoda Gosei's factories over a 10-year period.
To date, 179,000 trees have been planted at factories in China, Japan, Thailand and Vietnam. TG Kentucky will be Toyoda Gosei's first North American plant to participate in the afforestation project when its tree-planting ceremony takes place at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 23.
“It’s a pretty ambitious project, and we need a lot of help,” Smith said.
Jim Luckett, TG Kentucky's purchasing manager, said they are planning to plant 37,000 trees of 32 different species (all native to Central Kentucky) on berms around the factory. Luckett said TG Kentucky President Atsushi Goto wanted to be the first North American plant to participate in the afforestation project, and he wanted their project to be the biggest to date.
“He’s trying to set the bar up here and challenging the other plants to beat him,” said Luckett.
That effort also led TG Kentucky to receive a special award from the Marion County Industrial Foundation during this year’s Marion County Chamber of Commerce awards dinner.
TG Kentucky started preparing the ground for the project several months ago, and for more than six months, Smith has held meetings twice a week with a team of 40 people about the project.
From a business standpoint, the afforestation effort will not benefit TG Kentucky's bottom line, but it will add trees to the local area, which they hope will aid the local environment, according to Smith.
TG Kentucky even built a greenhouse on site where they have been growing 3,000 seedlings for the tree planting. The rest of the 37,000 trees are being purchased, according to Luckett, who was charged with finding nurseries that could handle the order.
To date, 1,500 volunteers have signed up to participate in the tree planting. Professor Miyawaki, Chairman Wakayama, as well as local and state officials are expected to be there as well.
Smith said the tree-planting event will begin with a one-hour ceremony with comments from dignitaries, including Miyawaki, with an explanation of the planting process.
Miyawaki has developed a planting technique that encourages competition between the different types of trees and has yielded an 85 percent survival rate. By comparison, less than 50 percent of most trees survive in mass planting efforts, according to Smith.
“The intent is to plant the tall trees toward the center of the berm and the short trees on the outside so they all get light,” Luckett said.
He added that they are anticipating more volunteers signing up as the date of the event draws nearer, and anyone who decides to show up to help that day is more than welcome.
"The more the merrier," Luckett said.
Smith admitted to feeling a little anxious about the project when it was first proposed, but he is more comfortable now that it will be a success. Miyawaki has visited the TG Kentucky plant twice, and he led 300 people in planting 1,100 trees already, which gave them a better idea of what will happen, Smith said.
And it's going to happen on March 23 no matter what.
“Rain or shine, sleet or snow, we’re going to do it that day,” Smith said.
TG Kentucky and its sister company Fuel Total Systems are participating in an afforestation project at the local factory.
Afforestation is the process of establishing a forest on land where there isn't one. The company is hoping to have at least 3,000 volunteers from Marion and surrounding counties to participate in the tree-planting event at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 23.
As of Friday, around 1,500 volunteers were signed up.
To learn more about the project or to sign up, visit www.tg-cares.com.