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Officials say Volvo considering investing and adding jobs in local plant

August 24, 2012|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com

Volvo is considering investing $100 million and adding jobs at its Washington County production plant, state and local officials said.

Del. Heather R. Mizeur, D-Montgomery, talked about the plan Thursday at a Washington County Democratic Central Committee picnic.

Mizeur told the crowd that the investment could lead to 500 jobs at the Volvo Powertrain North American plant north of Hagerstown.

Two local officials familiar with the proposal — Daniel Pheil and John F. Barr — said Mizeur’s summary of the project money was accurate, but they thought her estimate of new jobs was high.

Pheil, chairman of the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission, said Mizeur might have been referring to a combination of both new jobs and protected jobs, meaning they exist now and won’t be eliminated.

“I think that’s a stretch,” Barr, a Washington County commissioner, said about the possibility of 500 new jobs at the plant.

But “whether it’s 50 or 500, they’re in an expansion mode,” Barr said.

Volvo spokesman Brandon Borgna would not comment on the proposal Friday.

In an emailed response, he wrote: “We’ve made no decisions regarding significant investments in Hagerstown beyond the recent $8 million investment in our new transmission line. We’re always evaluating our future needs, but we don’t discuss those deliberations publicly.”

Last week, Volvo held an event to celebrate 50 jobs at the plant created to work on the new production of automated manual transmissions.

Mizeur’s statement at the Democratic picnic was: “There’s an economic development proposal in the works to bring 500 more jobs to this facility and we’re going to fight really hard in the state of Maryland to make sure that we support good jobs here in Washington County.”

During an interview afterward, Mizeur said Volvo wants the state and local governments to contribute about $10 million to $12 million on top of the company’s investment.

Mizeur is vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Education & Economic Development.

Barr confirmed the $10 million request Volvo proposed from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and that the county has been asked to provide money.

Karen Glenn Hood, a spokeswoman for the Department of Business and Economic Development, said Friday that she wasn’t aware of the request, but the department probably wouldn’t comment about an ongoing discussion of that type until there was news to announce.

She said the state thinks highly of Volvo and tries to stay in touch with the company as much as possible.

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, whose subdistrict includes the Volvo plant, said he has been impressed with Volvo’s commitment to Washington County. State and local officials should “listen closely” if the company has a new plan for significant investment here, he said.

On July 24, the Washington County Board of Commissioners toured the Volvo plant, then held a closed-session meeting there.

Volvo is one of the top employers in Washington County. The Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission’s 2012 Business & Industry Directory lists the company as having nearly 1,400 employees at the local plant.

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