GM Plant Manager In Ohio Prepares For Shutdown

MORAINE, Ohio (AP) - Steve Brock had been manager of General Motors Corp.'s SUV plant for six months when he was told the company planned to close the factory by 2010.

It's been a rocky ride, and he's not sure what the future holds for himself and the plant's 2,000 workers.

"I'm like everyone else here. I don't know where I'm going next or what's going to happen," Brock said. "It's a pretty dynamic environment that we're currently in and one I haven't seen in my 24 years in the industry."

The drama seems unending.

A United Auto Workers strike against American Axle, a GM supplier, shut down the plant in suburban Dayton from early March to late May. Then gasoline prices hit $4 a gallon. And in June, GM announced plans to close the plant in 2010 or sooner because of a customer shift to smaller vehicles.

GM then said it will eliminate the second production shift later this month, putting 1,000 employees out of work. Last week, GM turned down a $56 million tax credit and grant package from the Ohio Department of Development to keep the plant open.

"You've never seen so much volatility as we've had in a six-month period - ever," Brock, 46, said.

He said the current plan is to close the factory at the end of the 2010 model year, which would typically occur sometime in the middle of 2010.

"And it could be sooner, based on what the market dictates, and right now the market is very difficult," Brock said. "We'll just have to wait and see what the consumers tell us about the demand for our product."

The plant employed about 4,100 workers until mid-2006, when the third shift was eliminated. The factory assembles the GMC Envoy, Chevrolet Trailblazer and Saab 9-7X.

The job for Brock and his team hasn't changed - to make the best mid-size SUVs they can even while they prepare for a future that may have nothing to do with the automotive industry.

"That's something I think about a lot - making sure that people are making the appropriate plans," Brock said. "It's never too soon. You've got to have a plan A and a plan B."

He said workers should take advantage of community programs designed to help them make a transition.

"People ought to be planning for different things that are going to occur," he said. "It's not a good idea to sit back and wait."

James Clark, president of the International Union of Electronic Workers/Communication Workers of America, said Thursday the union is attempting to put together a series of options for the workers while continuing to try to persuade GM to keep the plant open by finding a new product to build there.

"We're pushing to try to make something happen," Clark said.

"As far as giving up hope, we're never going to do that," added Eric Cromer, vice president of IUE-CWA Local 798.

In the meantime, Cromer said, employees are awaiting a new contract they hope will include the right to transfer to other GM plants, buyouts and other special attrition programs.

A transition center has opened at the plant that provides employees information about retraining.

"A large number of employees have taken advantage," Cromer said.