GM plant closing takes down Harford supplier

25 at Tower Automotive to lose jobs in June

April 16, 2005|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

When it closes next month, General Motors' assembly plant in Baltimore will take another local factory down with it. Tower Automotive Inc., a Michigan supplier of vehicle frames and similar components, said yesterday that it will close its small Harford County operation because the 25 workers there make frames for GM's doomed plant, where production will end May 13.

Tower, which is restructuring after filing for bankruptcy protection, also said it will close two other plants - in Bowling Green, Ky., and Corydon, Ind. - and reduce staff at a facility in Granite City, Ill. The layoffs will affect about 800 employees, and all closings will happen by June 30.

Tower Automotive is struggling in the face of intense competition, rising material costs and declining vehicle production. But the company said the demise of its plant in Belcamp is a result of GM's decision to terminate the GMC Safari and Chevrolet Astro lines of vans, produced in Baltimore, and shut down the plant.

"It is very directly related to the General Motors closure," said Doug Morris, a Tower spokesman.

The company is one of three GM suppliers in Harford; together they employ about 150 people, according to the county's economic development office. At one point, Johnson Controls Inc., Monarch Manufacturing Inc. and Tower Automotive employed at least twice that number - Tower alone employed more than 100 in Belcamp in the mid-1990s.

There are more vehicles being produced worldwide than people want to buy, and that's particularly tough for GM and Ford Motor Co., which are losing ground to foreign competitors.

"It's really a vicious time right now," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich. "It's a survival-of-the-fittest era."

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