General Motors Will Sell Closed South Gate Plant

Times Staff Writer

City officials say they are "disappointed" by General Motors Corp.'s decision to sell its Tweedy Boulevard plant, which has been closed for three years.

Five General Motors officials visited South Gate City Hall on Tuesday to personally deliver the bad news to city officials in a 90-minute closed-door session.

After an extensive review, GM decided that the 49-year-old plant is "surplus" and will be sold after it is appraised within the next 60 days, said Judith Merriott, assistant regional manager of public relations in GM's Los Angeles office.

Merriott said that GM recently decided against reopening the plant and wanted to tell city officials about the decision as soon as possible.

"We just decided it was fair to the city, we didn't see any new products that were going to go into that site," Merriott said in a telephone interview. "It just wasn't economical."

The city's chief administrative officer, Bruce Spragg, said the firm's decision was both a disappointment and a relief.

'A Sense of Relief'

"We're disappointed but not totally surprised," Spragg said. "After all, it has been three years, and there's a sense of relief to know that, finally, we have a decision."

The city last month spent $35,000 on a report that it hoped would persuade GM officials to reopen the plant, or sell or lease it to another auto maker. In the report, paid for with a state grant, city officials said they would be willing to build a $16-million parking garage on the 89-acre factory site, as well as a 5-million-gallon reservoir, if federal grants could be obtained.

But GM officials decided to sell the facility, which once employed 4,300 workers and contributed $350,000 in annual property taxes to the city. The city valued the plant at $108 million when it was closed during a sales slump in March, 1982, but since then about $50 million in equipment has been removed from the plant by GM, city officials said.

Mayor Herb Cranton said city officials will work closely with GM to ensure the sale of the property. Cranton added that he hoped the new owner would bring jobs to South Gate by continuing to use the plant for manufacturing, perhaps of autos or other goods such as computers.

"I'm very disappointed, but I'm grateful for their honesty," Cranton said of GM.

City officials had once hoped to land GM's new Saturn Corp. GM is pouring $5 billion into the new subsidiary to develop a subcompact to be sold later this decade. But GM officials have said the new car probably will be built at a new plant at a yet-undisclosed site.

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