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Maryland Lt. Gov. Brown pays visit to Mack/Volvo Powertrain

April 26, 2013|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, right, and Delegate John Donoghue talk before taking a tour of the Volvo Powertrain facility in Hagerstown Friday.
Colleen McGrath / Colleen McGrath

After donning a bright yellow vest and plastic safety glasses, Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown got to see what goes on behind the scenes at the Mack/Volvo Powertrain manufacturing plant during a Friday afternoon tour of the facility north of Hagerstown.

“It’s exciting,” Brown said. “We’ve got nearly 1,400 employees in skilled jobs, family-supporting jobs. And that Volvo calls Maryland home, that means a lot to us.”

Brown’s visit included time to meet with Volvo officials privately before the tour to talk about potential state partnerships with the large Washington County employer on future job-growth initiatives and plant expansion.

“It’s our hope that ... Volvo will be a long-term employer in Maryland and we would like to see Volvo expand, so we’re looking for opportunities to partner — the public sector and the private sector — to be able to support the kind of private-sector, job-creating investments that Volvo might be able to make here,” the Democrat and former state delegate said.

Wade Watson, vice president of Volvo’s Powertrain Production, led Brown and a group of about 20 other people, including several county and state officials, through the 34-acre plant off Pennsylvania and Maugans avenues.

Watson said it’s difficult to predict how the diesel engine and transmission market might go in the upcoming years, but the company was eager to show off the facility’s current operations and its potential for expansion.

“We prepare ourselves in this site to take on new business content,” he said. “It’s a huge facility ... and we have opportunities to add more content into the existing roofline without having to add bricks and mortar. So we’re trying to find those opportunities, and partnerships like the one we have here, is going to help us with that.”

The plant currently employs about 1,400 people, Watson said, including a mix of engineers, research and development teams and production workers.

Within the competitive landscape of the country, state governments can “really make or break business cases sometimes,” Watson said, and having Maryland’s support is crucial to further growth at the plant.

“We’re always competing to try to get new business, to try to find new opportunities and to have a partnership like we have now with the State of Maryland is vital for our future,” he said.

Brown, an advocate for public-private partnerships across the state, said a number of programs are available that allow businesses to partner with the public sector for things like workforce training and physical expansions.

“Our interest is working with Volvo and identifying what those opportunities are because we would love nothing more than to see Volvo expand plant operations in Maryland,” Brown said. “... This is a huge facility employing a lot of men and women, and that’s quite impressive when you walk through the doors here at Volvo.”

Watson said Volvo has been working closely with Washington County Public Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox on developing student programs that promote the skills needed for new graduates as they enter the workforce.

Brown, who is believed by many to be a likely candidate to run for Maryland governor in 2014 when Gov. Martin O’Malley’s second term expires, deflected a question about his potential candidacy Friday.

“What we’re talking about right now is creating jobs in Maryland and looking for real opportunities for the state to partner with the private sector to do just that,” he said.

The Washington Post earlier this month reported that Brown is planning to kick off his campaign in May, including a “very special announcement” at an event May 10.

Also as part of his visit to Hagerstown, Brown will be meeting with Western Maryland workforce development officials and education leaders Saturday morning at Hagerstown Community College to discuss the administration’s EARN legislation, which promotes training and collaboration between businesses, government and nonprofits.

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