Originally created 11/22/05

City to lose business icon, but not hope



DORAVILLE, Ga. - For decades, the suburban Atlanta city of Doraville has danced carefully with General Motors Corp., its largest employer.

Ever since the company's Doraville plant opened in 1947, GM provided the city a steady supply of jobs, taxes and business opportunities. It even helped give the small city of about 9,000 an identity - when Atlantans thought of Doraville, they thought of the GM plant, residents said.

Yet many around town said they knew someday the plant would close. It just was a matter of when.

As a result, there were no surprises to city officials, residents and business owners on Monday when General Motors Corp. announced it would close the plant, which employs 2,900.

But the announcement did send city officials scrambling. They did not learn of the decision until early Monday morning.

"We do not want to lose them but we'll have to deal with it and we're working the best we can to put something back in there," Doraville Mayor Ray Jenkins said. "The city will survive."

But it's uncertain whether local businesses will.

"I'm going to lose a lot of customers," said Tyriko Duckett, manager of a Waffle House near the plant. "They're just like family."

Before their shifts, plant employees often file in to fill up on hamburgers, steaks and pork chops, he said, adding there were rumors the plant would close six months ago but "nobody expected this."

Tommy Galloway, owner of Galloway Hardware in Doraville, said although his family business now caters more to the area's growing Asian and Hispanic communities, GM employees helped the store grow in the early years.

"My dad used to say we wouldn't be in business if it weren't for General Motors," Galloway said. "He often said employees were what kept him going all these years."

The plant closure is part of a larger plan to cut 30,000 manufacturing jobs and close nine North American assembly, stamping and powertrain facilities by 2008 as part of an effort to get production in line with demand and return the company to profitability and long-term growth.

Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO of the world's largest automaker, announced the restructuring plan, which will cut about 9 percent of its global work force, during a speech to employees from GM's Detroit headquarters. Wagoner said GM also will close three service and parts operations facilities as part of the manufacturing cuts.

"The decisions we are announcing today were very difficult to reach because of their impact on our employees and the communities where we live and work," Wagoner said. "But these actions are necessary for GM to get its costs in line with our major global competitors. In short, they are an essential part of our plan to return our North American operations to profitability as soon as possible."

Models currently built at the Doraville plant include: the Buick Terraza, Chevy Uplander, Pontiac Montana SV6 and the Saturn Relay, said Michael Merrick, a spokesman for the plant. The plant will stay open until the end of those products' life cycles, Merrick said.

"That's going to be mainly dictated by sales and marketing numbers," he said.

Merrick said he could not talk about the mood of workers at the plant.

Clara Glover said her husband, Carl, works the assembly line at the plant. They came to the Doraville plant from Ohio in 2003.

She said she was not too worried, saying that "if we have to, we'll probably end up going to another (plant)."

GM said other assembly plants that will close are in Oklahoma City, Lansing, Mich., Spring Hill, Tenn., and Ontario, Canada. A shift also will be removed at a plant in Moraine, Ohio.

GM said the plan is to achieve $7 billion in cost reductions on a running rate basis by the end of 2006 - $1 billion above its previously indicated target. The number of job cuts also was above earlier estimates. GM said earlier this year it planned to cut 25,000 jobs by 2008, mostly through attrition and early retirement.

Any early retirement program would require an agreement with its unions, which GM said it hopes to reach soon.

GM shares rose 16 cents to $24.21 in late morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Its shares traded below $21 last week at an 18-year low.

On the Net:

General Motors Corp.: http://www.gm.com/

City of Doraville: http://www.doravillega.us/