FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — State and local officials expressed disappointment Wednesday with a General Motors Corp. decision to indefinitely close its plant here, laying off nearly 3,700 workers.
"It will have incredible implications for the economy of this area," said Matthew Clarke, Framingham's executive town administrator.
The plant pumps an estimated $200 million into the area economy each year, Clarke said.
GM said it would close the Framingham plant indefinitely because of slow sales of the Chevrolet Celebrity and Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera.
Production at the plant will halt Nov. 30. The automaker said it will keep a few workers at the plant to maintain equipment so the plant won't technically be closed and can be returned to production if necessary.
"This has happened before. We hope it isn't permanent," said United Auto Workers union representative John Laperle.
Gov. Michael S. Dukakis promptly announced that his administration would do all it could to help the GM plant resume operations as soon as possible.
"Everybody has a very, very strong commitment to that plant," Dukakis said, noting that GM recently invested about $250 million to modernize the plant.
"They tell me they hope to be back in production next spring. Those are their present plans," he told reporters at a Statehouse news conference. "Obviously, they have a very, very strong commitment to Framingham because of their very large investment."
The governor also said that, as long as the suspension is relatively brief, it shouldn't cause a serious impact on the state's economy, largely because the auto workers' union contract guarantees most workers unemployment compensation equal to 95% of their regular wages, which average about $14 an hour.
Dukakis was on hand at the Framingham plant on March 14, 1983, two months after retaking the governor's office, to celebrate the facility's reopening and to purchase the first Celebrity for the state motor pool. In his 1982 campaign, Dukakis had pledged to restore and keep the GM jobs in Framingham.
GM spokeswoman Mettie Seabrooks said economic factors will dictate how long the plant remains closed. "It all depends on the market," she said.
State Rep. Barbara Gray, (R-Framingham), said the closing may be linked to the recent concerns about the economy.
"It may be due to the reluctance of some people to buy big-ticket items such as cars," said Gray.
Gray said it was feared that GM would close the Framingham plant after it lost a bid to produce GM vans early this year. The contract went to an assembly plant in Tarrytown, N.Y.
"We always knew the plants were rivals," she said. "We were afraid this might happen."