GM breaks ground in White Marsh for electric motor plant

It will be first such facility owned by a major automaker in the U.S.

May 17, 2011|By Gus G. Sentementes, The Baltimore Sun

As political leaders and corporate officials brandished shovels at a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday, Martinez Fernandez mused on the importance of the day: A new General Motors plant would be built in White Marsh, a development that would mean more work, more jobs — and more pride.

"This is a good day for GM," said Fernandez, 55, who has worked for the company for 36 years, as have three of his relatives. Before it closed several years ago, Fernandez worked at GM's Baltimore plant on Broening Highway. "We knew the future would get better."

The future, in this case, is the construction of a $244 million electric motor plant adjacent to GM's Allison Transmission plant in White Marsh. The rear-wheel-drive motor to be built there is expected to power a new generation of GM plug-in electric and hybrid vehicles.

The plant is expected to employ 190 people and will be governed under a separate labor contract from the one in place at the transmission plant, a GM spokeswoman said. More than 200 people work at the transmission plant.

The new contract between GM and the United Auto Workers has not been negotiated.

Construction will begin in July, and the plant is expected to open for production in 2013. It will be the first electric motor plant run by a major automaker in the United States.

GM received a $52 billion government bailout two years ago in the midst of the recession as car sales plummeted and the company cut thousands of jobs, closed dealerships, and trimmed the number of cars and brands it offered. But last year it posted a $4.7 billion profit — its first in six years.

GM and other auto manufacturers are striving to produce economical electric and hybrid vehicles. The federal government is supporting the nascent industry with billions of dollars in development grants as well as tax breaks to consumers to buy the vehicles.

The White Marsh plant is being built with a combination of federal, state and Baltimore County subsidies. GM is investing about $129 million, the U.S. Department of Energy is investing $105 million and the county is contributing $6 million in grants. The state is providing $4.5 million in grants for economic development and job training assistance.

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