Sale of GM plant could come as soon as June

April 29, 2010

A United Auto Workers official said Thursday morning that the General Motors stamping plant on the west side of Indianapolis could be sold to an Illinois company as early as June.

“They are working very hard to have this done by then,” said Maurice “Mo” Davison, UAW Region 3 director. “That’s real aggressive.”

Addison, Ill.-based JD Norman Industries has surfaced as the potential buyer for the plant, which GM plans to close by September 2011.

About 650 people work at the factory. But JD Norman, which already performs stamping work for GM, could hire an additional 1,900 workers during the next few years, said Davison, who has personally met with JD Norman executives.

“I think it’s going to be a great deal for the people who work there, as well as the city of Indianapolis,” he said. “They want to put a lot of investment in that plant, and grow employment significantly.”

GM has operated the plant since 1930. Though the plant could be considered old, Davison said, it contains a lot of new equipment, which was attractive to JD Norman.

JD Norman could be bucking an automotive industry trend with its plans. More and more, stamping plants are being located on the sites of auto-manufacturing facilities to cut down on shipping costs, said Kim Hill, associate director for research at the Dearborn, Mich.-based Center for Automotive Research.

“The big, stand-alone stamping plants are seen as dinosaurs,” Hill said.

But some plants make it work, including the GM stamping plant in Marion that survived company consolidation, he said.

William J. Rieber, a professor of economics at Butler University’s College of Business, said the Indianapolis plant’s pay scale likely appeals to JD Norman.

The four-year labor contract negotiated in 2007 contains a two-tiered system in which new employees earn about $15 an hour compared with the prevailing $29-an-hour wage for more experienced workers.

“Anytime you can maintain a manufacturing facility, it’s certainly good for those workers, since those skills are usually tied to that specific plant or industry,” Rieber said. “They just can’t easily move elsewhere to comparable positions.”

Michael Huber, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, has met with executives of JD Norman and said they have not requested any incentives from the city yet.

“The mayor is excited about the prospects of the site continuing as a manufacturing facility, and we’re very excited about the prospects of saving the existing jobs and growing jobs on the site,” Huber said.

Justin D. Norman, who founded the Illinois company in 2004, did not return phone calls seeking comment Thursday morning.

JD Norman performs metal stamping at locations in the United States and Mexico for the aerospace and defense, appliance, automotive, building technologies, electrical and energy, and medical industries.

The company has acquired seven stamping plants since 2005—the last one being HSM Industries in Mexico in November.



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