Ge Giveth To Riverside What It Taketh From Columbia

Company To Replace One Plant With Another

January 06, 1991|By Alan J. Craver and Erik Nelson | Alan J. Craver and Erik Nelson,Staff writers

General Electric Co. has begun construction of a regional distribution center in Riverside that will employ 102 people when the plant opens this summer.

The 800,000-square-foot center is being built on a 44-acre tract off Compass Point Road at Riverside Business Park to replace a 20-year-old facility in Columbia, Howard County.

The manufacturer closed the Columbia plant two weeks ago after two decades of operations at the site, called General Electric Appliance Park East.

GE selected Riverside as the site for the appliance distribution center because of its access to Interstate 95 and rail services, said Carl Majewski, a GE spokesman.

"GE spent roughly two years looking for a site," Majewski said. "With the current economic situation, it's been touch and go for a long time."

Total construction costs of the Riverside project were unavailable last week, said a GE spokesman.

However, the company's building permit filed with the county puts the value of the construction at $12 million.

Construction work on the project started in late December.

Much of the grading work at the site is completed, and construction workers are now building the foundation for the concretestructure, Majewski said.

Majewski added that the building is expected to be finished in July.

GE is the second major national corporation to announce plans to locate in Harford County in the last two months.

Clorox Co., of Oakland, Calif., announced in November that it will build a $75 million distributioncenter in Perryman that will employ 100 people once in full operation in 1995.

The GE center is about one mile west of the proposed Clorox site.

The Clorox plant will have an annual payroll and benefits of up to $4 million and will contribute abut $600,000 in county and state taxes, the company said.

GE and the county Economic Development Office could not provide the amount of property, corporate and other taxes the new GE plant should generate.

The gain for Harford County comes at the expense of other Maryland counties.

GE ended operationsat the Howard County distribution plant Dec. 25. The Columbia distribution center will continue to operate under a subcontractor, but will close when the Riverside facility opens.

The Columbia plant and warehouse employed 140 workers, who have been laid off.

About 65 of them will work for the subcontractor until the new Riverside center opens.

GE officials expect the Riverside distribution center to be moreefficient than the Columbia facility.

The distribution center is thelast operating component of the Appliance Park, which opened in 1970, promising to be the county's largest employer and the cornerstone of manufacturing in Columbia.

The park was expected to employ 10,000 but peaked at 2,800 employees in 1974, when GE closed its air conditioner plant, partly because of a demand for more energy-efficient air conditioners.

That was followed by closures of the microwave plant in 1986, after GE started buying microwaves from Japan and Korea, andthe range plant on June 30, after the company acquired another plantin Georgia with three times Columbia's production capacity.

On Tuesday the Rouse Co., which originally sold GE the Columbia property, will take control of the range plant building to begin renovating it for an office and industrial park. Rouse's neighboring Columbia Gateway office park was also built on land bought back from GE.

GE's Employee Assistance Center, which is providing retraining and job referral for the 650 laid-off range plant workers and 140 warehouse workers, will continue to operate for another six months.

Nearly 200 former range plant workers have obtained jobs, and about 160 are in job training, said Rita Carey, the center's director.

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