Lockyer names NUMMI commission

by David Goll, San Jose Business Journal

A 10-member "commission" with members including Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman and actor Danny Glover will examine the economic impact of the closure of Fremont’s NUMMI auto manufacturing plant.

The group, appointed by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, will also look into options for keeping the New United Motor Manufacturing plant open past its planned March 31 closure date. It will hold its first meeting Wednesday at the California Public Utilities Commission office in San Francisco, during which commission members will take public testimony about the plant shutdown.

Toyota Motor Corp., which manufactures its Corolla cars and Tacoma pickup trucks at the plant, announced in August it would close the 5 million square-foot plant. Two months earlier, its NUMMI partner for the previous 25 years, General Motors Co., said it would pull out of the arrangement, citing economic concerns.

NUMMI employs 4,700 workers, who comprise the only unionized workforce at a Toyota manufacturing plant in the United States. If the plant closes, they and an estimated 20,000 to 50,000 workers at companies that supply the plant will lose their jobs.

State officials have already tried to persuade Toyota to keep NUMMI open by offering tax breaks and vehicle purchase preferences, among other business advantages.

Last summer, before Toyota made its plans public, three bills introduced in the state Legislature would have created a special auto manufacturing retention zone around the NUMMI plant, allow Toyota a sales tax exemption in buying new equipment for the plant, and require state agencies to give preference to purchasing vehicles manufactured in California. NUMMI is the only automotive manufacturing plant in the state.

The commission will be the latest attempt to hold onto Toyota, now in the midst of handling a massive recall of more than 8 million vehicles because of manufacturing defects. Commission members are scheduled to visit the company headquarters in Japan.

Besides Wasserman and Glover, other commission members are Harley Shaiken, professor at the University of California at Berkeley; the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow of the Presbyterian Church USA; Victor Uno, chairman of the Port of Oakland’s board of commissioners; Nina Moore, legislative director of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce; Richard Holober, executive director of the Consumer Federation of California; Bruce Kern, executive director of the East Bay Economic Development Alliance; Carl Pope, president of the Sierra Club; and Art Pulaski, chief officer of the California Federation of Labor.