Closed Northrop plant in Glen Arm up for sale Former manager, others hope to buy, reactivate factory


March 26, 1996|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Paul Causey's 16-month dream of cranking up the idle Northrop Grumman Corp. aircraft parts machining plant in Glen Arm could be coming to an end.

The factory, which once turned out parts for aircraft ranging from the F-14 Tomcat to the Boeing 727 jetliner and the space shuttle, closed in December 1994, a victim of Pentagon spending cuts.

Mr. Causey, who was general manager when it closed, former Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden and a small group of investors have been working on a plan to reactivate the factory and bring back some of its 300 workers.

But time is running out. Norman Levy Associates of Southfield, Mich., a large industrial auction company, has been called in to sell the Glen Arm plant's equipment, along with all the production equipment at Northrop Grumman's closed aircraft assembly factory in Bethpage, N.Y.

Robert Levy, president of the auction house, said no date has been set for the Glen Arm auction, but it likely will occur in mid-June. He said the sale will not include the buildings or the land.

The auction is not the only threat to Mr. Causey's plan.

Three community associations in the Long Green Valley region of Baltimore County, where rolling farmland abuts the business district, have petitioned to remove the Northrop Grumman plant's industrial zoning permit. They want Glen Arm and the valley to be as rural and tranquil as possible.

That would kill any hope of the Causey group or others to buy the plant and resume production, said Robert M. Hannon, county director of economic development.

"It also raises an ethical question," said Mr. Hannon, noting that changing the zoning on the 47-acre parcel to residential would deprive Northrop Grumman of any chance to recover the value of its investment in the plant.

Stuart Rienhoff, a Realtor with Colliers Pinkard, is seeking a buyer for the 365,000-square-foot plant. The price: $5.6 million.

Mr. Causey says money is not his motivating force. "I'm 66 and I have a good pension. But I hate to see this thing get trashed. I've been with the plant since the beginning. I designed it in 1955, when it was General Engineering Inc. of Baltimore.

"My hope was to start it up again and bring back some of the people who worked here. We had a good work force and a lot of esprit de corps. I wanted to save some jobs."

But Mr. Causey said his efforts evolved into a Catch-22 situation.

"The lenders wanted us to have work lined up before they gave us the financing we needed to get started," he said, "and the companies [that did business with the plant before it closed] didn't want to give us contracts for work until we were up and running.

"We could never get the two sides to come together and help us out."

Mr. Causey estimated that he needed about $1 million in operating capital and about $8 million or $9 million to buy the plant and equipment.

He still clings to a slim hope of bringing the plant back to productivity. "Maybe all the equipment won't be sold at auction. There is not a lot of demand for some of the machines we use in the plant, and maybe there will be enough equipment left to start another round of negotiations aimed to reopening the plant.

"I'm not real hopeful," he said, "but it would be nice."

Pub Date: 3/26/96

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