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Toyota's Proposed Plant Shutdown to Be Scrutinized by Panel of California Leaders

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Blue Ribbon Commission holds public hearing, will issue findings next Wednesday on economic, social, environmental costs of automaker's proposal to close award-winning NUMMI plant in Fremont

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 24 -- A 10-member panel of California leaders convened by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer held a public hearing in San Francisco today to gather facts and take testimony from a broad range of experts on the expected impact of Toyota's planned shutdown of New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. - or NUMMI - auto plant in Fremont. The plant has consistently won top ratings from J.D. Powers and is widely regarded as a model for the auto industry.

A shutdown of NUMMI would be the largest mass layoff in the current recession, and the prospect of having to endure the loss of potentially tens of thousands more jobs in the plant itself and related industries has spurred broad concern throughout the state. The Blue Ribbon Commission has been charged with both collecting the facts on the impact of closing NUMMI and examining alternatives for keeping the plant in operation.

Lockyer explained, "Californians are deeply concerned about how the loss of this plant might affect their economy, their state and their lives, and it is the job of this Commission to help find the answers to those questions. It is a testament to the quality of leaders on this panel that they have been more than willing to take up this challenge. I have asked the panel, and they have agreed, to gather and assess the facts and to have a report on my desk by next Wednesday morning so that I can share it with the public at noon."

Acclaimed actor Danny Glover, who serves on the Commission, echoed those sentiments when he said, "California leaders - religious, civic, labor, and business - have come together on this Commission to determine for ourselves if the closing of Toyota's California plant is necessary, to assess the severity of the impact that would follow such a closing, and, if possible, to explore strategies that might make it possible to avoid a shutdown. It is an honor to have been asked to serve my state in this serious and important matter."

Some economic experts have projected that Toyota's impending NUMMI shutdown could cost the state - already one of the hardest-hit by unemployment during this recession - as many as 50,000 more jobs. That figure includes the more than 5,000 now employed at the plant itself and an estimated 50,000 more in related industries up and down the state. In anticipation of the closure, some companies that supply the plant with parts and material have already announced layoff plans.

Concerns about the impact of the shutdown do not end with its economic consequences, however. The membership of the Commission reflects the breadth of issues that have fueled the growing alarm over Toyota's plan to abandon auto manufacturing in California. The members of the Commission are:

  --  Professor Harley Shaiken, UC Berkeley
  --  Bob Wasserman, Mayor of Fremont
  --  Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Presbyterian Church USA
  --  Victor Uno, Chairman, Port of Oakland
  --  Richard Holober, Executive Director, Consumer Federation of California
  --  Bruce Kern, Executive Director, East Bay Economic Development Alliance
  --  Carl Pope, President, Sierra Club
  --  Nina Moore, Fremont Chamber of Commerce
  --  Art Pulaski, Chief Officer, California Labor Federation
  --  Danny Glover, Actor.

Another Commission member, the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, who is the head of the Presbyterian Church USA and of a San Francisco Bay area congregation, said, "This Commission has a moral duty to serve our community and state to sort out the facts, to assess the implications of those facts, and to search for solutions that will best serve the needs of Californians and their families."