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Rockefeller says GM jobs may be safe

August 06, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Computer software designed to streamline warehouse management could help save jobs at the General Motors Service Parts Operation Center in Martinsburg, said U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

The Martinsburg center is part of GM's Northeast/East North Central Parts Distribution Center Consolidation project, GM spokeswoman Kathleen Bommarito said.

While GM has already transferred about 50 workers from Martinsburg to new facilities in other states and plans to transfer another 50 in the next few months, it is considering installing the company's Warehouse Management System into the 2.5 million-square-foot Martinsburg facility, Bommarito said.

The inventory control system has been installed in new facilities in Jacksonville, Fla., Jackson, Miss., and Charlotte, N.C., as well as an already existing 1 million-square-foot parts distribution center in Willow Run, Mich., she said.

Rockefeller is optimistic about what the system's installation could mean for the Martinsburg facility.

"I am hopeful that General Motors has been persuaded to continue and possibly expand their operations in West Virginia," Rockefeller said. "We have heard that positive changes may be in the works."

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The software is used to help monitor inventory and streamline shipping and receiving with fewer workers, John Patterson, GM's director of field operations, said.

"When you look at a facility like Martinsburg, if you go with the (Warehouse Management System), you wouldn't need automation, and you'd be working in a smaller facility. It could mean significant changes," Patterson said.

GM has not made a final decision on installing the system in Martinsburg, Patterson said.

GM currently has about 600 workers in Martinsburg, Bommarito said.

The future of the GM facility in Martinsburg has been cause for concern in the Eastern Panhandle since January, when reports surfaced the company would move part of its Berkeley County operation to Baltimore.

GM denied the reports, but local lawmakers expressed worries about the company's announced plans to move about 100 jobs to new GM facilities in other states.

A coalition of the state's most powerful Democrats met with GM officials in February to encourage the giant automaker to keep its Eastern Panhandle center open. Along with Rockefeller, U.S. Sen. Robert Byrd, U.S. Rep. Bob Wise and West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood attended the meeting.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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