US: Half of closed automaker sites re-used - CAR

By Graeme Roberts | 8 December 2011

Almost half of closed former automaker sites in the US have been converted to new, productive uses, according to Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research (CAR).

CAR, a nonprofit research organisation, Michigan, found that 60% (267) of the 447 automaker manufacturing plants in operation in 1979 have closed; of those that have, 48% (128) have been at least partially reused or are in the process of change.

The study was completed with support from the US Department of Labor, Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, and is the first comprehensive catalogue of closed automaker manufacturing facilities across the country.

“While each community with a closed automotive facility faces unique challenges, this report helps shine a light on how community engagement, a focus on flexibility, and the involvement of the private sector, non-profit groups, and all levels of government can help them recover,” said Jay Williams, director of the recovery office. “The findings will assist our office as we continue to help leaders navigate the local, state, and federal resources available to revitalise former auto communities.”

“It was particularly surprising to learn how many communities have had some success in repurposing former automotive sites,” said Valerie Sathe Brugeman, project manager of the Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies group at CAR, and the study’s head. “When an auto manufacturing plant closes, the job and income loss often causes an economic shock. But many communities have found ways to recover and at least partially restore property values and employment.”

Closed automotive facilities were found in 28 states, and 65% were concentrated in the Midwest states of Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

Case studies found that repurposing rates were lower in counties with high unemployment, declining population, and a high concentration of closed auto facilities and CAR recommends public policy initiatives be targeted toward these areas.