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New GM Plant in Brea to Rehire 200 Laid-Off Employees : Automotive: 2,500 furloughed workers from Van Nuys factory closed 2 years ago will have priority on jobs to sew truck seats.

March 23, 1994|CHRIS WOODYARD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BREA — A General Motors division plans to open a factory for making pickup seats here that would employ about 200 former workers from its shuttered San Fernando Valley auto plant, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The sewing factory will produce seats for GM's line of full-size pickups when it opens later this spring, said Karen Longridge, spokeswoman for the Inland Fisher Guide division of GM in Warren, Mich., which makes automobile and truck components.

Most, if not all, of the new plant's work force will be drawn from the 2,500 employees idled when GM shut its Van Nuys auto factory two years ago, she said. From its opening in 1947 until its closure in August, 1992, in a cost-cutting move, that plant had churned out 6.3 million cars, including Chevrolet Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds.

The closure left production workers who had earned $17.50 an hour with little hope of finding similar high-paying manufacturing jobs in the Southland after their benefits ran out a year later. Though there was no immediate word on what the new jobs will pay, the Brea plant will put a relatively small portion of the furloughed workers back on the GM payroll.

"Since we have a work force available, we would like to find opportunities," she said.

The workers are represented by United Auto Workers Local 645 in Van Nuys, which declined comment on the rehiring effort.

A truck-seat plant had been planned for the San Fernando Valley, but undamaged industrial buildings became harder to find after the Northridge earthquake in January. That led GM to the site in Brea--a former Weber Aircraft facility at 3200 Enterprise St. Weber moved to Fullerton, according to the brokers for the Brea building's landlord, Carl Ross of Ontario.

GM has leased a 132,000-square-foot building for four years at a cost of $2 million, according to the brokers, Lee & Associates Commercial Real Estate Brokers in Orange.

"The San Fernando Valley was GM's first choice. But in the aftermath of the earthquake, there was a run on all available industrial sites, which forced them to widen their search to a 50-mile radius," broker Bill Lee said.

GM's Longridge said the company was attracted to Brea by the pressing need to get the operation up and running.

"The site in Brea just met our needs," she said. "There was little work we would have to do to get up to speed. We want to get this site operating as soon as we can."

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