Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. is asking the White House to pressure General Motors to reopen its White Marsh plant as it begins producing life-saving ventilators for increasing numbers of coronavirus patients.
“It is a large state-of-the art facility with advanced technology, which employs more than 300 employees and contractors," Olszewski said of the White Marsh plant that had been producing hybrid transmissions. The county executive issued a letter to President Donald Trump’s administration Friday with the request.
GM selected the White Marsh plant for closure last year, along with an assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, and a powertrain factory in Warren, Michigan. Nearly 300 full-time, temporary and management workers in White Marsh were laid off.
Trump last month invoked the Defense Production Act, directing General Motors to switch from automobile production to making ventilators for patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The Defense Production Act gives the government authority to direct companies to meet national defense needs.
The federal government is set to pay GM $489 million for 30,000 ventilators.
“This money should be leveraged to put hardworking Americans back to work — including residents of Baltimore County,” Olszewski said. “These workers are idle, they are skilled, and they could make a meaningful contributions to the national effort to increase the supply of medical equipment needed by state and local governments to respond to COVID-19.”
GM officials said they expect to start making ventilators in mid-April, aiming to reach a rate of 10,000 ventilators per month as soon as possible.
The Baltimore County facility should be given priority given that Maryland is expected to be one of states hit hardest in terms of the number of cases, Olszewski said. He said the state is believed to have 12 “hot spots” for outbreak of the virus and would thus benefit from additional supplies.
Additionally, he said White Marsh provides a well-situated site given the plant’s close proximity to Interstate 95, the Port of Baltimore and Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.