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GM LORDSTOWN There is much to do before plant remodel



Published: Wed, May 30, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



THE VINDICATOR, YOUNGSTOWN

Negotiations on a state financing package for the plant overhaul are done.

By DON SHILLING

VINDICATOR BUSINESS EDITOR

LORDSTOWN -- General Motors assigned an advanced engineering team this week to continue working on the proposed remodeling of the Lordstown Assembly Plant.

Tom Mock, a plant spokesman, said he couldn't comment on the work being done by the team but said much preparatory work is needed when one model is being phased out and another is being planned.

In a flier Tuesday, United Auto Workers Local 1112 said the engineering team was important because the design work is the last item to be completed before the $500 million remodeling plan is sent to top GM officials for approval.

Promising: Sending the team is a good sign because GM has delayed or canceled projects at other plants to save money, the union said.

GM has assigned a variety of teams to handle various aspects of the project, Mock said. This particular team isn't necessarily a sign the proposed Lordstown renovation will be approved, he said.

On the other hand, nothing has arisen to derail the project.

"The business case itself is coming together. There's no question about it," he said.

Included in that are a new labor contract approved by union workers in January and a tax abatement approved this month by Lordstown and Trumbull County officials.

A state financing package still is outstanding, but negotiations are complete, said Renee Rashid-Merem, a GM spokeswoman in Detroit. The final package is being reviewed, she said.

The union flier said shop chairman John Mohan, who could not be reached to comment this morning, has had recent conversations with top GM officials who have reinforced GM's commitment to the plant.

"These top officials have also restated that GM is committed to the building of small cars in the United States and advancing new small car products launch dates," the flier said.

New model: Union and plant officials have been working on securing a new model for the plant for the past few years. GM has said it intends to replace the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunfire with new models in about three years but hasn't said where they will be built.

GM also has said it is continuing to review the designs of its next small car models.

Local officials have developed a plan that calls for the plant to be redesigned to increase efficiency. Production would continue while the massive construction project unfolds. GM officials are reviewing that plan and a decision is expected in the second half of this year, Rashid-Merem said. The plant employs about 4,400 hourly workers.




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