Janesville52.5°

How long until GM disassembles plant?

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JAMES P. LEUTE
December 23, 2008
— After today's somber departure of workers from the General Motors assembly plant, don't look for the sudden arrival of moving trucks, demolition equipment or a buyer for the sprawling property.

That's because production will continue at the plant after the first of the year on the line that builds commercial low-cab-forward medium-duty trucks in a joint venture between GM and Isuzu.


It's also because GM officials haven't yet made a full assessment of the plant and its equipment, a GM spokesman said.


Because production will continue at the plant—at least for the 50 or so workers on the Isuzu workers—GM officials won't discuss plans for decommissioning and demolishing the plant.


But if the past is any indication, GM has established a pattern for its non-production plants.


GM likely will deploy what it calls a "reuse team" to Janesville to assess everything in the 4.8 million-square-foot plant. Equipment that can be salvaged for use in other plants will be saved. Equipment GM doesn't want will find its way to auction.


In three weeks, for example, Maynard Industries will auction off equipment from GM's metal stamping plant in Pittsburgh, which closed in November.


GM also is likely to launch concurrent surveys of the plant's environmental status and any possible reuses for the property, according to a source familiar with the automaker's decommissioning process.


Such studies could take six months to a year.


The environmental assessment will include soil and groundwater testing, and if a cleanup is necessary, GM will develop a plan in conjunction with state and federal environmental agencies.


If necessary, environmental remediation could take years, the source said.


In the meantime, GM will likely try to market the property, which encompasses 250 acres and has been assessed at $33.5 million by the city of Janesville. A real estate development company likely will be hired to determine possible uses and values.


Sometimes, alternative uses for existing buildings are determined and buyers step forward.


GM closed its Oklahoma City plant in February 2006. Earlier this fall, Oklahoma County paid $54 million for the 3.8 million-square-foot facility and its surrounding acreage and is leasing a portion of it to neighboring Tinker Air Force Base.


In Georgia, four finalists are competing to buy the GM property in Doraville, which ended minivan production in September.


In most cases, the source said, the buildings are demolished before they're sold to a developer.


Regional companies usually handle demolitions. Virtually everything—metal, wood, wiring and concrete—is recycled, with very little material going to local landfills, the source said.


"That costs a lot of money, but GM gets money back for the materials," the source said. "Whether it's equipment sold at auction or materials recycled during a demolition, it does provide some revenue."



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