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GM to Mansfield: Closure decision is final

July 21, 2009

GM to Mansfield: Closure decision is final

By Lou Whitmire
News Journal

ONTARIO — General Motors Corp.’s decision to close the Mansfield-Ontario Metal Center is final.

A local meeting scheduled by GM North America vice president of manufacturing Tim Lee with the committee “Mansfield Makes Sense for the NEW GM” will take place July 31. However, according to a GM statement, the meeting shouldn’t be interpreted as the company reconsidering its decision to close the plant.

“GM recognizes that many of the necessary actions we are taking to ensure our viability have imposed great hardships among many, including the Mansfield Metal Center, its employees and the local community,” the statement reads. “Unfortunately, as is the case in several other assembly, stamping, and powertrain sites, the decision to close the Mansfield Metal Center is final.

“During this difficult transition period, we are doing our best to be responsive to the needs of those affected and their elected officials. In this spirit, CEO Fritz Henderson agreed, in recent discussions with Senator (Sherrod) Brown, that GM would participate in a local meeting to explain the rationale behind the plant closing. Because it would be unfair to our employees and the community to create false expectations, this local meeting should not be interpreted in any way that GM is reconsidering its decision to close the plan.”

Brown’s spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak said a time and location for the meeting have not yet been set.

“The community deserves the opportunity to make the case for Mansfield,” Brown said last week. “Mansfield has done everything right — the workers are among GM’s most productive, the plant ranks at the top of nearly every category GM uses to evaluate its facilities, and the community has invested thousands of dollars in training for GM workers.”

Brown, a Mansfield native, is among several elected officials working with the committee that includes Mansfield Mayor Donald Culliver, Ontario Mayor Kenneth Bender and Richland County Commissioner Gary Utt.

Ontario Mayor Ken Bender said he is undeterred by the statement.

“The committee … certainly looks forward to this meeting with Mr. Lee and feel that we have compelling facts that support the reconsideration of GM concerning this facility’s closure. The committee should be given time at this meeting to present this significant information to Mr. Lee,” Bender said. “The committee is certainly very thankful for this opportunity to meet with the GM representative and would like to thank U.S. Senator Brown for arranging this meeting.”

Wayne Hill, a consultant to the committee, said he looks forward to the meeting, too.

“We’re glad and appreciate GM’s top vice president of manufacturing coming and hearing directly from the committee,” Hill said. “The elements are strong and persuasive and we look forward to having the chance to make the case and talk about the various elements which really all combined show this plant to be the most productive, efficient, cost effective and why the new GM would be interested.”

GM said being a stand-alone facility, and its production in shrinking markets made the Ontario facility vulnerable to closure.

“Many factors went into the decision to close Mansfield, including the fact that the majority of the plant’s production volume supports products in declining markets such as full size and medium duty trucks,” the statement reads. “Additionally, GM is strategically working to utilize our capital assets to the greatest extent possible, as we migrate to a lean contiguous and regional manufacturing footprint focused on reducing inventories, shipping costs, and container investment needed to support future programs. Such factors are typically impacted by the distance between a metal center and its assembly plant customers, and although not exclusively, those factors were major considerations in the decision to close the plant.

“GM along with the entire auto industry is experiencing an unprecedented reduction in market demand, resulting in the need for GM to significantly reduce their production capacity to ensure the long-term success of the company. GM will work with the UAW and our human resource staff to assist both our hourly and salaried employees as Mansfield ramps down operations.”

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