Demolition of shuttered Boxwood GM plant brings hope of new Delaware jobs
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Sheet metal and concrete crumbled this week as a nearly yearlong demolition began of the former General Motors plant near Newport DE. It is the first significant sign of life in years at the long-shuttered facility on Boxwood Road, stirring hope that the 142-acre property could again become an anchor for Delaware jobs – even if they won’t be in manufacturing.
Newport developer Harvey, Hanna & Associates Inc., announced last spring its plans to remake the facility into a three-million-square-foot center of “e-commerce, logistics, fulfilment-type companies.” It could employ thousands, though at salaries below those in the manufacturing sector. “Manufacturing, if it hasn’t left the country altogether, it certainly has left the state,” company President Thomas J. Hanna said last summer.
Existing structures at the site are being demolished and four new buildings will be built on a campus that sits next to major highways and freight tracks — valuable transportation links for a shipping center. The demolition is scheduled to last 10 to 12 months, according to the company.
Environmental investigations and cleanup is ongoing, though the state “has now cleared 72 percent of the site for future redevelopment,” Harvey Hanna said in a statement. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control will oversee the demolition and subsequent construction to ensure workers do it safely and provide dust control. Monitoring wells also are to be installed to provide additional confirmation that metals have not leached into groundwater and migrated.
As GM closes additional plants, Delaware has already long said farewell. In June, Philadelphia-based Econsult Solutions released a report claiming the new site at full capacity would boost the state’s economic output annually by $281 million and employ 2,100 people.
Harvey Hanna has not announced prospective tenants and a company spokesman this week said “it would be premature” to disclose who has shown interest in the site.
For decades, the GM plant provided thousands of jobs and injected millions of tax dollars into the state and New Castle County each year.
The plant closed in 2009, laying off hundreds of workers during the height of the Great Recession.
Hopes for a manufacturing resurrection emerged in 2010 when electric vehicle entrepreneur Henrik Fisker announced plans to build his line of electric sports cars in Delaware.
After receiving more than $20 million in state economic development money, Fisker promised to return thousands of jobs to the shuttered facility. But his project stalled in 2012, when his battery supplier filed for bankruptcy. Fisker Automotive’s bankruptcy came soon after. Last year, Fisker told the News Journal that his company could have been successful in Delaware had more investment dollars been available to buoy its operations through rough economic conditions. “If we would have got the money (from additional investors), we would have been (in Delaware) today as the original company,” Fisker said.
Following the bankruptcy, Wanxiang Americas purchased Fisker’s company and its $149 million in assets, which included the Newport plant. Harvey Hanna then purchased the 142-acre site in 2017 for an undisclosed amount.
Contact Karl Baker at email@example.com or (302) 324-2329. Follow him on Twitter @kbaker6.
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