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180 to lose jobs at auto seat plant


A Havre de Grace automobile seat manufacturing plant will close in July, putting 180 people out of work, the company said yesterday.

The Douglas & Lomason Co. plant makes seats used in the Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim cars produced at the Chrysler Corp. plant in Newark, Del. As a result of declining sales of these cars, the Harford County plant laid off 86 workers on Friday.

Jesse Weaver, manager of the Douglas & Lomason plant, said the company's contract with the Chrysler assembly plant expires in July.

During peak production in 1989 and 1990, the Havre de Grace plant employed between 550 and 600 workers, and it shipped more than 1,000 Spirit and Acclaim seat sets to Chrysler each work day.

"It has been a downhill slide since then," Mr. Weaver said yesterday, noting that daily deliveries total between 120 and 200 seat sets.

The plant began producing seats in August 1988. Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Douglas & Lomason makes auto components at plants in the United States and Mexico.

Mr. Weaver indicated that his plant lost out to a Cecil County plant in the competition to supply seats for a new line of Chrysler cars to be built in Newark. "Johnson Controls got the business," he said, but he declined to elaborate.

Last March, Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls Inc. announced that it would open an automotive seat assembly plant in North East to supply seats for the Dodge Intrepid.

At that time, a spokesman for Johnson Controls said the North East plant would open in July and employ between 70 and 80 workers by the time it reaches full production in September.

On July 8, the Newark Chrysler plant is slated to shut down for a changeover in the models it produces. It will halt production of the Spirit, Acclaim and Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Le Baron sedans. When the assembly line starts up again on July 25, the Newark plant will produce the Intrepid and Le Baron convertibles, according to Alan Miller, a spokesman for Chrysler in Detroit.

Maryland made use of a package of financial incentives to lure the Johnson Controls plant to Cecil County, including $35,000 in job-training funds and $115,000 in federal grant money to be used by the company for development of the plant.

The county said it would also apply for a $175,000 loan from the state Department of Economic and Employment Development that would be used to construct office space in the building leased by Johnson Controls.

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