Things looked bleak in July 2009 as the final car produced at the GM assembly plant on Boxwood Road in Newport rolled off the line. Lots of workers lost their jobs, as the state faced a major economic downturn.
Then, just months later there was hope. A big celebration was held at the assembly plant in October of that year, to announce a new owner and a new type of car that was moving in. Thanks to help from millions of dollars in state and federal incentives, Fisker Automotive was set to retool the plant to build its electric cars in Delaware. Thousands would be back on the job.
But Fisker fizzled. The company never rebuilt the factory. None of the company’s slick electric cars were ever made.
It’s with that backdrop in mind that hopes are tepidly rising again. Delaware commercial developer Harvey Hanna and Associates has purchased the 142 acre site from Wanxiang, the Chinese company that took over from Fisker.
It’s not clear what Harvey Hanna has planned for the site, but company officials pointed to their success in developing the Twin Spans Business Park in New Castle as a model for moving forward at the Boxwood Road plant.
“We are confident our vision for this site will create thousands of jobs during construction and thousands more well-paying permanent jobs,” HHA President E. Thomas Harvey said. “This is an exciting time for our community and our company.”
Delaware Chamber of Commerce President Rich Heffron said HHA has had success with industrial and logistics companies in other parts of the state. He said the Newport site is in a prime location with good amenities for a successful redevelopment. “You have a rail there, you’re close to I-95, you can get to the Port of Philadelphia, Port of Wilmington, the Port of Baltimore, you can get to the airports fairly easily, so we think that’s probably what they’re looking at,” Heffron said.
He said any employees working at the site will be better than current situation. “That’s a good sign, because there’s nobody working there right now,” Heffron said.
Harvey Hanna plans to announce details of the site redevelopment in the coming weeks. “As a locally owned and operated family business, we are thrilled for the opportunity to return this facility to productive uses that bring in quality companies and quality jobs at livable wages,” said Thomas Hanna, COO and managing director at HHA. “We were uniquely positioned to redevelop this site due to our decades of experience repositioning former manufacturing facilities in Delaware.”
The company’s Twin Spans Business Park was a vacant manufacturing site for infrastructure technology firm Chicago Bridge and Iron. HHA purchased the site in 1998. It is now home to more than 1,000 workers for companies including Zenith, Tire Rack, and Canada Dry Distributing.
State leaders hope HHA’s success at Twin Spans will translate to thousands of new jobs at Boxwood Road.