Shuttered auto plants have been a surprising beneficiary of the gloomy economy, with developers buying as many closed plants over the last three years as during the previous 26, according to the first comprehensive study of plants closed by American automakers since 1979.
Helped by lower property values and a rash of closings that suddenly put many more sites on the market, developers have bought 32 properties since 2008. Many have welcomed smaller manufacturers as tenants, while some have been turned into housing developments, offices and research centres. Eight are now schools or colleges, the study found.
Over all, nearly half of the 263 plants that automakers have closed in the US have been revived in some form, according to the study.
The new developments have helped communities regain considerable tax revenue lost when the plants closed, but only a fraction of the jobs that were lost. Almost three-quarters of the closed plants had been one of their county’s top three employers, and nearly one-third had more than 2,000 workers. In contrast, 55% of the repurposed sites have or will have fewer than 100 employees, and only 17% have or will have more than 800 employees.
Jay Williams, executive director of the office, cautioned that with so many closures, bringing in new users was not always feasible and the best use for some sites might ultimately be green space. The study found that 135 former plants remain unused, including 24 that closed more than two decades ago.
The study, conducted for the labour department by the Canter for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., found a plant’s location and the local economy significantly influenced its fate after being closed. Sites near the coasts and in the South are cited as having been most successful. All 14 former plants in California and Texas have been repurposed, but in Michigan, the state most affected by closures, only 43 of 105 have been.
New York Times