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Dana plant nears final production

By Mike Elswick
Aug. 18, 2012 at 11 p.m.

A mainstay in the Longview manufacturing community for the past decade will be fading into history in coming days as Dana Structural Solutions plant is shuttered.

From day one, Dana corporate officials and local civic leaders involved in securing the truck frame plant for Longview made it clear the local plant's production was to supply frames to the General Motors plant in Shreveport.

What officials did not anticipate in 2001, when Dana announced intentions to build a 240,000-square-foot plant in Longview Business Park, was that GM would be closing its light truck plant in 2012.

"As previously announced to local employees, Dana will close its Longview plant in the third quarter (around August) in sync with the end of production of the pickup truck for which it produces frames," said Christy Hawley, manager of corporate communications and news services at Dana Holding corporate headquarters in Ohio.

"As part of closing this facility, Dana has issued WARN notification letters, dated May 11, to its Longview employees and the other required parties to assist them and the community in this transition," Hawley said. "Dana will provide eligible employees with separation pay benefits and outplacement assistance."

Sometime this month, the Shreveport General Motors plant will shut down, and Dana production will be close behind. Susan Gill, executive director for Longview Economic Development Corp., said a skeleton crew will remain behind at the plant for several months.

"They will still have people in the plant through the end of this year - maintenance, removal of equipment, auction, etc.," Gill said this past week. Before the recession in 2008, the plant employed about 600 workers.

In May, when Dana officials filed notice with the Texas Workforce Commission it would be closing the plant and terminating workers, that number had dwindled to 210. Gill said efforts are being made to find jobs for the remaining employees.

"Dana (human resources department) is working with the East Texas Workforce Solutions Rapid Response Team and local employers to help those employees that have been or will be laid-off, find jobs," Gill said. While that effort is going on, LEDCO has also been involved in helping Dana sell the property.

"We are marketing the property and have provided quite a bit of information to prospective buyers. No offers have been made yet," Gill said.

The plant started experiencing troubles in 2008 and 2009 as the meltdown in the nation's automotive industry was in full swing. By 2010, the city of Longview's Tax Abatement Subcommittee recommended the city suspend Dana's property tax exemption this year.

That was the ninth year of a 10-year tax abatement deal the company had with the city, and the company ended up paying property taxes for that year and the following year.

Under the 10-year agreement signed in 2001, the city waived taxes each year as long as the company maintained an employment level of 450 workers. In 2010, Dana failed to certify whether it maintained that average per day in 2009.

At the time, city officials said the deal saved the company about $100,000 in property taxes the preceding year.

General Motors announced plans to shutter its Shreveport plant in 2009, saying production to expected to end by 2012. The plant produced the GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado model pickups and had earlier produced the H3 Hummer model.

The Associated Press reported in 2009 that after $1.5 billion in investments in recent years, the Shreveport assembly plant was considered one of the company's most modern. But its products wound up on the short end of skyrocketing gasoline prices in 2008, followed by the economic meltdown in October 2008 and the company's free-fall.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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