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Governor tours Mack

December 10, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich toured Mack Trucks on Tuesday to celebrate the company's decision to invest $147.5 million in a new production line and engine development lab at the Hagerstown plant.

"This is a little bit of a victory lap. Victory laps don't occur without people," he said.

Speaking to a group of employees and local businesspeople gathered in Mack's lobby, Ehrlich gave credit to the plant's quality work force, company officials and Mack lobbyist Bruce Bereano.

Earlier, Ehrlich took a tour of the 1.5 million-square-foot plant, stopping along the way to chat with workers.

He rolled up the sleeves of his yellow pinstriped shirt and donned safety goggles to try his hand on the production line. He tightened the bolts on an engine bell housing.

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"Honest work - for a politician," he quipped.

Bobby Shoop, chairman of the United Auto Workers Local 171, said he doesn't want people to forget the sacrifice workers made to ensure Mack's future in Hagerstown.

Union workers agreed to allow Volvo, Mack's parent company, the flexibility to send work to its plants in Europe as business dictates, he said.

State and county government officials kicked in a $5.6 million incentive package, said James L. Henry, managing director of the division of financing programs at the Maryland Department of Economic Development.

Ultimately, Volvo decided to center its North American engine manufacturing business in Hagerstown. The new production line will fit in the existing plant.

"We did our part. The state put the icing on the cake," Shoop said.

The last time Ehrlich came to the plant, on Sept. 24, the company was deep in negotiations with its union. That visit was closed to the public.

"The last time we were here, we had our game faces on," he said.

But Tuesday, everyone was all smiles.

Ehrlich promised to return for the company's June 11 groundbreaking ceremony. At that time, Mack also will undergo a name change, although the new name has not been revealed, company spokespeople said.

Ehrlich got tutored in emissions regulations during his tour.

The company is developing new engines to meet more stringent federal regulations on diesel trucks that go into effect in 2007 and 2010.

Mack also is building a $35.7 million state-of-the art engine laboratory beside its Hagerstown plant, said Jim Morris, chief engineer of the engine development laboratory.

Now, Mack engines are tested on 90 different points to measure fuel efficiency and emissions. The new regulations will require 50,000 test points, he said.

Before he visited Mack, Ehrlich appeared at a fund-raiser for Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

About 300 people attended the $50-a-plate luncheon at the Four Points Sheraton on Dual Highway.

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