GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS Cecil Co. welcomes auto seat plant


ANNAPOLIS -- Johnson Controls Inc. announced yesterday that it would open an automotive seat assembly plant in Cecil County.

The announcement was particularly welcome to Cecil County,

which ranks among Maryland's highest counties in terms of unemployment. The county had an annual average unemployment rate of 10.3 percent last year, compared with 6.8 percent for the state as a whole.

The company said the majority of the jobs would be filled by localworkers.

During a State House news conference, Gov. William Donald Schaefer hailed Johnson's selection of a location in Cecil County as proof of a pro-business environment he sees sweeping the state.

Indeed, Maryland made use of an enticing package of financial incentives to lure the Milwaukee-based company.

Mark L. Wasserman, Secretary of the Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED), said the state would provide $35,000 in job-training funds. An additional $115,000, to be used by the company for development of the plant, would be provided from a federal Community Development Block Grant, he said.

The county will also apply for a $175,000 loan from DEED's Maryland Industrial and Commercial Redevelopment Fund that would be used to construct office space in the building leased by Johnson.

James H. Keyes, chairman and chief executive of Johnson, said the company's investment in the factory would be about $2 million, primarily for equipment.

The factory would be housed in a 50,000-square-foot vacant building in the Peninsula Industrial Park off Route 272. The company will also lease an adjacent building for administrative operations.

The North East plant would be considerably smaller than Johnson's facility in Belcamp, which produces seats for vans assembled at the General Motors Corp. plant in Baltimore. The Harford County plant employs about 200 workers. Johnson posted sales of $5.1 billion last year. The North East plant will be the company's 17th seat production plant in the United States.

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