GM plant gets money for electric car business

General Motors Corp. announced Wednesday that it will continue to upgrade its Baltimore transmission plant, investing $23.5 million as it positions the facility to become a core part of its electric car business.

The money is in addition to $246 million the company announced in January to equip the plant in White Marsh to build electric motors beginning in 2013. Plans are to build a 40,000-square-foot facility next to the site where workers now build transmissions, including some that go into hybrid vehicles.

Both investments include federal stimulus grants from the U.S. Department of Energy.

GM executives said the latest investment would lead to the creation of 11 new jobs. They wouldn't discuss what products would be made with the additional money, citing competitive reasons. A total of about 200 jobs would be created because of the expansion, nearly doubling the work force at the White Marsh plant.

"Our electrification strategy is just beginning," said Arvin Jones, a GM manufacturing manager. "Baltimore will play a large role in that."

GM officials have said they have been quietly working on an electric-car strategy for the past decade through research, development and design at facilities in Michigan, Indiana and California. The company believes there is now more demand from consumers for reliable and affordable electric vehicles.

Workers said the expansion will bring stability to the plant.

"This means that UAW will be adding new jobs, securing the facility for the long term," said John Kimble, shop steward for the United Auto Workers local, which represents 159 hourly workers at the plant.

The GM announcement drew Gov. Martin O'Malley and other elected officials, who hailed the news even if the number of jobs being created by the latest investment seemed small.

O'Malley said changes at the plant represent "the transformation of our economy" to "cleaner, greener manufacturing technologies" and predicted that "there will be more jobs."

The Democrat faces former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in the November election when jobs and the economy will be on the minds of many voters.

julie Bykowicz contributed to this article.

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