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GENERAL MOTORS Chamber leader: Incentives are OK



Published: Thu, May 3, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



A state senator says GM should reveal upcoming job cuts at Lordstown before receiving help.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- State and local financial incentives are appropriate to help secure a new product at the Lordstown Assembly Plant, even if General Motors cuts 2,000 jobs, a local leader says.

Tom Humphries, president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, said State Sen. Robert Hagan was wrong Monday to ask that state incentives for a GM supplier be held up because of his concern over job loss at the assembly plant.

"We are very disappointed in those comments and very concerned," Humphries said.

Sticks to viewpoint: Hagan, of Youngstown, D-33rd, didn't back down when told Humphries called a press conference Wednesday to criticize him. He went further than objecting to incentives for the supplier, saying he wouldn't support massive financial incentives for the assembly plant itself if 2,000 jobs will be lost.

He said it would be irresponsible for the state to approve assistance that he estimates at $200 million without knowing how many jobs will be at a renovated assembly plant.

"I want people to be honest about the job loss," he said.

He wants GM to guarantee a certain number of jobs. Significantly fewer jobs should result in a smaller incentive package, he said.

Response: Humphries said, however, that community leaders have been working with GM on the renovation of the plant for more than two years and everyone has known jobs will be cut if the project is approved by corporate officials and the plant begins making a new small car model in 2004. The chamber is involved because it negotiates economic development deals for Trumbull County commissioners.

"To come out at the last minute and say, 'Time out,' is inappropriate and it could be devastating to this decision," Humphries said.

He said there could be just 2,500 hourly jobs at the plant after it is renovated, compared with about 4,500 now. The plant had about 7,500 hourly workers before the last renovation in 1995.

Tom Mock, a GM spokesman, wouldn't comment on the company's plans for employees in 2004. Herman Maass, who recently retired as Lordstown plant manager, has said the plant will have fewer than 4,000 hourly workers by the end of this year.

Humphries said he is basing his 2,500 figure on GM's statements from a couple of years ago when it was proposing a modular assembly plant in Lordstown, with outside suppliers building sections of the car and GM workers assembling those sections.

GM later backed away from that plan, which included a supplier's park near the plant with about 2,000 jobs. Humphries said, however, that last week's announcement that a Michigan supplier intends to set up shop in Vienna Township could be the start of a new supplier network in the area.

Company's plans: Android Industries of Wixom, Mich., received a local tax abatement and a state loan, grant and tax credit for a proposed plant that would employ 185 people. The plant would receive engine blocks, add other components, such as alternators and hoses, and ship the completed engine to the assembly plant.

Hagan said Monday he asked Gov. Bob Taft to rescind the state help after United Auto Workers officials opposed incentives for Android because the engine work now is being done inside the assembly plant. The Android project would not bring any new jobs to the area, said Warren Davis, UAW Region 2 director.

Humphries said Davis didn't make a compelling argument. Humphries said he understands that moving the engine work is necessary to complete the proposed renovation of the assembly plant. The proposal calls for operations to continue in a smaller space while parts of the plant are upgraded and moved around.

Jeep developments: Hagan said he became alarmed Monday when DaimlerChrysler dedicated its new Jeep plant in Toledo. The final number of job cuts has not been determined, but estimates say between 1,600 and 2,000 of the plant's 5,600 hourly jobs will be cut.

Based on what the state gave DaimlerChrysler and Honda for another plant, Hagan estimated the state's package for Lordstown would be about $200 million. State development officials have declined to comment on the package, saying it is still being negotiated.

The Lordstown Board of Education approved a tax abatement last month for the proposed assembly plant renovation.




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