GM, city meet to talk marketing plan for car plant

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Elliot Hughes
Tuesday, February 2, 2016

JANESVILLE--General Motors' effort to sell its 250 acres in Janesville is only weeks away from launching a global marketing campaign, City Manager Mark Freitag said.

Representatives of General Motors and its hired real estate broker CBRE met with seven Janesville officials and several other stakeholders Monday to discuss the marketing strategy behind the sale of the former car plant and its environmental condition. Freitag said it went “superbly” and complimented GM for its “honest, upfront” approach to business.

Freitag said GM and CBRE officials again reiterated they believe they can find a buyer within a year--a pledge originally made in December. The five officials from GM and CBRE declined to comment to The Gazette following the two-hour meeting.

The Los Angeles-based CBRE is the world's largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, according to its website.

“They're opening it up across the globe, which I think is a good thing because it brings all kinds of new opportunities to the city,” Freitag said.

The gathering also included representatives from Gov. Scott Walker's office, Rock County, Forward Janesville and the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Freitag's summary of the meeting reflected an understanding that GM and CBRE are willing to work with the city somewhat in the lead-up to a sale.

Freitag said the firm will entertain any suggestions the city might have for the request for proposals it will issue to interested buyers. The city also offered to assist in any tours of Janesville that interested buyers may take. Freitag said he has been aware of interest in purchasing the property since he began his job as city manager in December 2013.

All parties are expected to meet again in March, Freitag said.

Given the property's size and proximity to the Interstate and railway system, Freitag said another industrial use would be best for the city. He said he would expect CBRE and GM to entertain other ideas, should they come up, however.

Freitag also reported that GM is making progress on environmental evaluations and clean-up on the property.

The company is set to finish a study of ground contamination in the plant's north site as soon as April, Freitag said. Workers were seen drilling into the ground at the site Monday.

GM has also already begun cleaning up ground pollution along the southern site and expects to finish that by June, Freitag said. He did not know how bad contamination there was or what exactly GM was doing to clean it.

The meeting did not include a discussion about the sediment contamination that was recently discovered in Rock River sediment near the GM plant.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has not formally identified a responsible party for the river sediment contamination. A GM spokeswoman said in January the company would begin its own evaluation of the sediment this month.

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