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It takes teamwork to write book on Toyota

GEORGETOWN — When the economy led to a souring automotive industry in 2008, Tim Turner, an employee of Toyota's huge assembly plant in Georgetown, wondered what he could do.

On the Friday before Christmas, he settled on writing a book, One Team on All Levels: The Story of the Toyota Team Members.

It's a compilation of stories written by some of the several thousand workers at the sprawling plant, Toyota's largest in North America.

Turner, who works in assembly safety, said the impetus to write the book, available on Amazon.com, came from comments on news articles he read at the time.

"A lot of folks still see Toyota as a foreign company," he said. "I said to myself, 'There are an awful lot of Americans working because of Toyota,' and I thought what could I do to share the story of all these great people."

On his own, Turner began approaching colleagues to write short stories of their experiences. At one point in the writing process, he was receiving a new story every day for three months.

Some are heartbreaking, like the story of an employee suffering from kidney disease and how his colleagues banded together to help. Others tell the story of those who became members of the employee family.

Shannon Conder came to work at the Georgetown plant after Toyota idled the Princeton, Ind., facility where she worked as it underwent a change in the types of vehicles produced. The automaker kept employees working, offering some the opportunity to come to Georgetown and others to do training exercises and upkeep.

Conder spent 11 months in Georgetown, and "it was excellent," she said.

She said the book "has stories that will bring you to tears and some that will make you laugh. ... The book was awesome."

Proceeds from the book's sales are being donated to the plant's benevolence fund, which also receives money from the cans and bottles recycled by workers.

"This was never about making any profit," Turner said. "I have a friend who had to get money from the Toyota benevolence fund because his house burned down."

As of a month ago, the 430-page book, which costs $15.95, had sold nearly 75 copies, Turner said.

The book also has led to more opportunities for Turner at the plant. He was picked from employees nationwide to be among those sent to Washington to lobby congressional officials after the company's recall of several models, including the Georgetown-built Camry, due to sticky gas pedals.

"We always try to look for team members who we know are passionate about what they are doing ... and Tim is an example of some of the very passionate team members that we have here at the plant who take a lot of pride in what they do," said spokesman Rick Hesterberg.

Turner visited Washington twice, as his first trip was cut short because of a blizzard that shut down the government.

"A part of me wishes I had the chance to write a chapter about the recall, but the chapter's not yet written for our company, and we're all in the right mode," said Turner, who volunteered at a Toyota dealership in Richmond to assist customers coming in to have recalled vehicles fixed. "We're going to make sure our customers are taken care of."

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