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Longview's Dana plant set to close in August

By Mike Elswick melswick@news-journal.com
May 29, 2012 at 11 p.m.


More than 200 local workers will be out of jobs in August when the Dana Corp. manufacturing plant in the Longview Business Park closes, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

In information released Tuesday, the state said it was notified by Dana officials that the plant will close by Aug. 23.

"This is not a surprise for our employees," said Chuck Hartlage, Dana spokesman. He said company officials and the plant's workers have known the facility was targeted for closure once its main customer - the Shreveport plant that makes General Motors mid-sized trucks - closes.

"As previously announced to local employees, Dana will close its Longview plant in the third quarter in sync with the end of production of the pickup truck for which it produces frames," Hartlage said Tuesday of the local plant's ties to the Shreveport plant.

GM will shutter the plant as outlined in its most recent four-year labor deal with the United Auto Workers Union and transfer production to a plant in Missouri, officials said.

Hartlage said Dana will provide eligible employees with separation pay benefits and outplacement assistance.

Dan Droege, president of the Longview Economic Development Corp., which helped attract Dana to Longview with an incentive package more than 10 years ago, said Longview officials were hopeful that GM would change plans to close the Shreveport plant.

"But unfortunately that did not happen," Droege said. "LEDCO has been aware of this situation, and we have been doing everything we can to find jobs for everyone involved."

He said LEDCO also will assist the company in finding a buyer for the plant.

"We are sad to lose a great tenant and partner such as Dana Corp. at our Longview Business Park and hope that we can help them find someone to purchase their facility," Droege said.

Hartlage said Dana issued notification letters dated May 11 to its Longview employees and the other required parties to assist them and the community in the transition.

Dana substantially sold its structural products business, of which the Longview plant was a division of, in 2010. The local plant's main production was in making frames for the GM Colorado and Canyon pickups and the Hummer H3 brand.

"The end of the structures program in Longview and related closing of that plant represents Dana's move out of the structures market altogether," Hartlage said. "This shift supports the company's strategy of focusing on its driveline, sealing and thermal-management products and systems."

The Shreveport plant was the only factory marked for closure in GM's recent labor deal with the UAW, according to wire reports.

General Motors had operated a plant in Shreveport about 30 years. The 3.1 million-square-foot GM factory opened in 1981 and in its lifetime was home to the assembly of nine vehicles, all of them trucks.

Industry analysts said with the exception of the S-10 and Sonoma, which were strong sellers for years, the plant had the bad fortune of being assigned to build slow sellers.

The $51 million plant was announced in 2001 with groundbreaking on the site in 2002. The plant's first production was for the 2004 GM model year.

LEDCO was instrumental in attracting the company to its Longview Business Park.

LEDCO worked with Dana officials to put together an incentive package valued at more than $5 million to bring the plant to Longview. That package included tax abatements from Harrison County, where the plant is located, and from the city of Longview.

When the recession hit and automotive sales plummeted, Dana had difficultly in maintaining the required employment levels under its agreement with LEDCO.

Dana and the city of Longview in 2002 signed a 10-year tax abatement agreement. In exchange for Dana's initial investment at the Longview Business Park and maintaining at least 450 employees each year, the city waived Dana's property taxes.

In 2010, the city suspended the incentive agreement and required the company to start paying its share of property taxes.

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