What are GM's plans?


GENERAL MOTORS must like doing business in Maryland. Why else would the world's largest manufacturing company double the size of its White Marsh Allison plant six months before the first transmission rolls off its assembly line?

The choice to add 400,000 square feet to the state-of-the-art factory -- and 390 workers -- certainly quiets the often-repeated assertion that Maryland has a hostile business climate.

Allison Transmission's president apparently likes what he sees here. "The Baltimore area offers a well-trained, represented work force, attractive state and local economic development packages and other benefits, all of which have helped make this expansion possible," said Dan Hancock.

Economic development officials should feel comfortable using those same words when talking to GM's other divisions. Mr. Hancock's endorsement is a powerful argument for GM's Truck Group to continue production at its Broening Highway plant.

The signs are not encouraging, though. Starting July 17, the plant will furlough 1,500 workers. GM has said van production at the plant will end in 2003 but has been silent about the future beyond that.

State and local officials are willing to bend over backward to accommodate GM. Economic development officials assembled a $10 million package of tax breaks, grants and training programs for the White Marsh plant. With the expansion, officials are adding more incentives to that package.

It's time for GM to reciprocate. Given the Broening Highway plant's impact on the region, state officials deserve to know if it is to be closed. They need to explore alternatives, such as converting it to a parts plant or offering it to other vehicle manufacturers.

GM should make its intentions clear -- the sooner the better for everyone involved.

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