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Mack workers chosen to create new engines

June 11, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

Last week's announcement that Volvo will invest $100 million so Mack Trucks Hagerstown plant can to build engines for all the Volvo heavy trucks sold in North America was most welcome. Not only does it preserve the local plant's 1,200 jobs, but it also confirms again that these workers are capable of world-class production.

The decision was by no means automatic. In September of last year, Volvo announced a plan to consolidate its support functions to eliminate duplication between Volvo Trucks North America and Mack Trucks, Inc.

At the time, Volvo officials said they would close the Mack plant in Winnsboro, S.C. by 2003, in part because the market for heavy trucks had fallen from 170,00 units per year from a high of 309,000 in 1999.

Mack's three plants were operating at only 30 percent of their capacity then and Volvo announced that it had to close Winnsboro because of a depressed market that showed "few signs of near-term recovery."

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In March of last year, Mack announced that due to that declining market, it would have to lay off 12 percent of the workforce and reduce production at the Hagerstown plant from 39 transmissions to 29 per day.

But last week's announcement coincided with another which said that all 82 people who were laid off last year would be called back to the plant.

It also fulfilled Mack executives' hopes to build more engines, a wish they expressed in June of 2000, when Volvo bought the truck division of Renault SA, including Mack.

Leif Johansson, Volvo's president and chief executive officer, said then that as a result of its purchase, it would build more engines in the U.S., but didn't say whether they would be at Mack's plants or a new facility.

There followed a period of evaluation by Volvo - of plants' facilities and workers' abilities - before that decision was made. The local Mack plant beat out sites in Pennsylvania, Mexico and South Carolina.

By doing so, Mack employees ensured that their company will remain a cornerstone of Washington County's economy. Congratulations.

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