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GM seeks tax break on $190 million project in Warren
Norb Franz
Macomb Daily

General Motors is asking Warren officials for a tax break on a $190 million project that could lead to the transfer of nearly 900 engineering jobs to the city.
GM executives are reviewing which of its facilities around the world is best suited to place the jobs ? most of which are coming from the city of Pontiac. "We're asking the city to help in making that business case," said John M. McDonald, GM communications manager.

That "business case" includes the availability of tax incentives.

On Monday, the company filed applications in Warren for tax relief on four building projects tentatively planned at the GM Technical Center, at 12 Mile and Mound roads. No new structures are planned. The company is considering new construction inside two facilities for different corporate use, to qualify for a 12-year, 50 percent tax break. The rehabilitation of two other buildings would fulfill requirements for a property assessment freeze on that portion of the project.

In all, more than $159 million of the $190 million plan would qualify for tax relief, officials said.

The project would generate $3.8 million in new tax revenue to the city, county and other tax entities over the next dozen years.

If the automaker picks Warren, the project would allow the GM Technical Center to bring in 877 jobs and retain nearly 1,000 current jobs.

Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh said those numbers are worth fighting for.

"GM's leadership, much as they want to support us here in Warren, they have to keep their eye on the bottom line. Unless we as a community come to the table, it will become awfully hard for GM's managers to justify spending eight times more here for an engineer than they would have to pay in India," he told reporters.

"We need to convince GM to come here. If we don't, the jobs will likely go overseas."

United Auto Workers Local 160, which represents unionized engineers at the Technical Center, joined Steenbergh in urging the Warren City Council to approve GM's applications.

Pontiac officials were expecting the move, but said the job loss will be offset by an influx of other GM employees to that city, said a spokeswoman for Mayor Willie Payne.

City officials still await word on whether GM will build a new six-speed automatic transmission at the Powertrain Plant at Nine Mile and Mound. The council last month voted unanimously to dangle a tax abatement that would save GM $17.5 million over 12 years if the company chooses Warren for the $350 million project.

In 1999, council members awarded a series of 10, long-term tax breaks before GM began a $1 billion investment at its sprawling engineering campus in Warren. The projected saving to GM: $91 million.

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