Norm Bafunno of Toyota knows that there is always room for improvement.

With this year's vehicle recalls and an overall challenging environment for manufacturing, improvement is something he hopes for not only for his company, but also for our region.

Bafunno, the vice president of production engineering at Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America, Inc., knows what it's like to hit bumps in the road, especially after his company's recent recalls. However, he sees an opportunity for growth.

"In the past three months, Toyota has implemented substantial changes that have made us a better, stronger and more responsive company," he says. "We've listened closely to consumers, learned from our mistakes, and are working to ensure that we lead the industry in safety, quality and reliability. Our dealers continue to make extraordinary efforts to fix our customers' vehicles, fixing nearly three million vehicles in response to the recalls."

He sees the present as a time to refocus on a commitment to honesty and integrity. Bafunno hopes the rest of the manufacturing world will follow suit, as the industry will be critical to growing the new economy.

"A healthy, competitive manufacturing environment is beneficial for everyone," Bafunno explains. "And just prior to the souring economy, which severely hurt our industry, nearly two-thirds of our direct automotive suppliers overlapped with our competitors, demonstrating that we are interconnected and heavily reliant on one another."

The key to growth is, in his opinion, to achieve sustainability in the economy and commit to the company's core values: Continuous improvement and respect for people. Continuous improvement means keeping on their feet and doing more with less, while respect for people has enabled Toyota to grow in North America over the past 25 years.

Bafunno has witnessed great potential in the Tristate, which will help it move forward as a leader in the new wave of manufacturing.

"There are many positive attributes about the Tristate's manufacturing industry, specifically the diverse mix of businesses that manufacture and do business here," he says. "Whether it's automotive, aerospace, consumer products, energy, health care or technology, our region has the manufacturing know-how and ability to compete on a regional, national and global level."

- Gretchen Keen

Event Emcee: Tom McKee

Tom McKee has been a news reporter with Channel 9 WCPO-TV for more than two decades, which gives him a unique perspective on what' important to every area of the Tristate.

Originally from Maumee, Ohio, McKee joined Channel 9 in 1973 after graduation from Ohio University. He covered the Hamilton County Courthouse and Cincinnati City Hall until becoming a producer for legendary news director Al Schottelkotte. In October 1980, McKee and eight other WCPO employees were held hostage at the television station by a gunman who released everyone unharmed and later took his own life.

McKee joined production company Video Features, Inc. in 1984, rising to the position of vice president of operations. He continued working for the station as a freelance producer/director/writer until 1989, when he rejoined WCPO as an assignment manager and reporter.

McKee lives in Kenwood with his wife, Claudia. Their three grown sons live in the Cincinnati area.