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Mayor Of Toyota Town On Recalls

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

Robert Hurst is the mayor of Princeton, Indiana. He joins us now by phone. Hi.

ROBERT HURST: Hi. How are you today, Robert?

SIEGEL: Fine. Are people there following the story of Toyota's recalls very closely?

HURST: Yes, the residents of the community as well as the 4,200 team members that work for TMMI.

SIEGEL: Team members are employees in the language of Toyota. TMMI is...

HURST: Toyota Manufacturing Indiana, Motor Manufacturing of Indiana.

SIEGEL: So, it's awfully important to the community.

HURST: Absolutely - 4,200 employees here. Some of them visit, shop at our stores, our Walmarts and so it's a big part of Princeton.

SIEGEL: Are people - it would seem it would be natural, kind of, rooting for the company to pull this one out and get past these recall issues?

HURST: Yes they are. You know, it's a big part of the community. We have an edit tax here, economic development income tax, goes in the county. It's based on wages of working people. And when people aren't working, of course, those edit taxes and other taxes aren't being paid to subsidize or the help the city and county.

SIEGEL: So it would be disastrous news to shut down or slow down at the plant and then also slow down at the supplier plants.

HURST: That's correct. You know, 4,200, they're probably the largest employer next to Duke Energy in the county. And not only that, they give about $1 million a year to charities and nonprofits in the Princeton and Gibson County area.

SIEGEL: I noticed that the Indiana State Fair this year will be - it's billed as one of the largest Japanese events in North America this year.

HURST: Yeah. I think that's true. And they have several events in Indianapolis yearly, jazzy festival and some others. And we have Toyota residents here, too. The president of Toyota at one time lived in the city of Princeton.

SIEGEL: Governor Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who brought a Toyota plant to his state wrote this in today's Washington Post. He wrote about the company's direct investment in this country of more than $18 billion. And he writes: I worry that there has been a rush to judgment and lawmakers must tread carefully lest they give Chrysler, in which the government has a ten percent stake, or General Motors, in which the government now owns a majority stake, an unfair advantage. Do you share that sentiment?

HURST: Yeah, I'm concerned. I think that something has to be done because of the loss of life. But he's right, the governor, that we own Chrysler.

SIEGEL: And General Motors...

HURST: General Motors, I'm sorry. And this is not the biggest recall ever. I think Ford several years ago had a large recall on tires. But it's something that has to be looked at and something that has to be repaired. And I think Toyota's doing what they can. They may have been a little hesitant to come out. But the chief executive officer of Toyota's over here now. And, you know, we've got a 3.7 billion - that's with a B - investment here in Southern Indiana just with TMMI.

SIEGEL: We heard from our reporter in Tokyo recently. He was quoting a Japanese auto analyst saying the reaction of the U.S. authorities was different from their normal behavior. And I think the implication was it's a Japanese company. So the U.S. authorities are being tough around them. Do you feel that?

HURST: You know, realistically I think if Ford had this type of problem, I don't know if there would be as much media attention, but I think part of it is - it takes the emphasis off of health care, it takes the emphasis off the economy, it takes the emphasis off some of the other things. So, it needs to be rectified, but at times I think, you know, it is little skewed to a foreign and not a domestic manufacturer.

SIEGEL: Well, Mayor Hurst, thanks a lot for talking with us.

HURST: Robert, thank you so much. I enjoy your program.

SIEGEL: That's Mayor Robert Hurst of Princeton, Indiana, home to a Toyota plant. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.