Turner pushes for federal money for Moraine plant

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

The U.S. Department of Commerce helped prevent the former General Motors assembly plant in Moraine from being torn down, and now U.S. Rep. Mike Turner is again asking for the department’s help in returning the facility to productive use.

On Monday, Turner, R-Dayton, met with local economic development officials, including Moraine city officials, Montgomery County Administrator Joe Tuss and Dayton Development Coalition president and CEO Jeff Hoagland to receive an update on Moraine’s efforts to attract jobs to the city and the partially vacant plant.

Turner said Tuss and representatives with the county and the ED/GE (Economic Development/Government Equity) grant committee toured the plant to evaluate it.

Moraine is seeking a $700,000 Montgomery County development grant for a $250 million project at the plant that would would create as many as 800 jobs. Details about the identity of the prospective employer have not been released.

But Turner also sent a letter to the U.S. Commerce Department asking for it to provide resources, assistance, funding and other forms of support to bring jobs back to the plant. In his letter, Turner reminded the department of its decision to preserve the plant instead of allowing it to be sold to any demolition companies.

In 2010, Turner and other local officials were concerned that demolition and scrapping companies were making offers to buy the plant. Turner sent letters to President Barack Obama, then Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner and Albert Koch, president of Motors Liquidation, Co., urging the parties to reject offers that would result in the leveling of the facility.

“Bids were coming in to old GM for scrappers to come scrap this, and the city was adamant that that not be what happens, because we would have had a big vacant site,” Moraine Mayor Elaine Allison said.

The government and plant owners decided only to sell the facility to Industrial Realty Group that decided it would keep the plant in tact. IRG, based in the Los Angeles area, bought the ex-GM plant in spring 2011, renaming it Progress Park. Since then, IRG has sought new tenants for the plant’s 4.2 million square feet for new occupants.

The plant has not been left empty, however. WCR Inc., a company which makes and refurbishes plate heat exchangers, signed an agreement in the summer of 2012 to lease 60,000 square feet and bring 25 jobs to the plant.

Local officials said demolishing the plant would have greatly damaged the ability of the site to attract new investment.

In his letter this week, Turner asked for the Commerce Department’s “continued commitment” to the economic redevelopment of the property. He said the department can provide direct aid to cities and counties or help through job training and facility investments.

“Now we are asking (the Commerce Department) to help us, as we look to job creation, to look again at what resources they might have available to be able to assist the county and city for this facility,” Turner said at a press conference outside the facility on Monday. “In this instance, reminding the Department of Commerce that they helped save this building I think gives them an additional incentive to bring resources.”

Federal help will increase the likelihood of attracting new business to the facility, Allison said.

“We all have to work together to get this thing redeveloped, and that’s what we are doing,” she said.

The facility has five current tenants, and city officials said they remain optimistic about the chances of attracting the large industrial employer.

In the ED/GE grant application, the project was described as using 1.4 million square feet of space, and it would require more than 500 parking spaces. The company would be expected to employ between 630 and 800 people.

“We are all very encouraged,” Allison said. “It takes the community working together to pull any project off — once again, we are all continuing to (work) at the state, county, local and federal level to bring everything together so we can get the big companies in here.”


©2013 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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