NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Del. gov helped seal sale of ex-GM plant

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Del. gov helped seal sale of ex-GM plant

Documents: Markell lobbied Obama auto czar for Fisker deal

David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau

Wilmington, Del. -- Delaware Gov. Jack Markell personally lobbied the Obama administration's top auto adviser to help seal the deal for an electric vehicle startup to acquire a shuttered General Motors plant.

Fisker Automotive Inc. acquired the GM Boxwood plant in Delaware in October for $18 million after it received a $529 million Energy Department loan.

But Fisker also expressed interest in New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. or NUMMI in Fremont, Calif., according to documents released by the Treasury Department and posted online this week.

Judicial Watch, a conservative foundation, filed suit seeking the records, and the department released 109 pages of e-mails in response.

The documents also disclose the Obama administration's active role in trying to find uses for shuttered auto plants.

Delaware was very aggressive in courting Fisker -- with the governor personally e-mailing the top Obama administration auto adviser for help securing funding.

"We've had some very positive conversations with Fisker about the GM plant," Markell told auto czar Ron Bloom in a Sept. 8 e-mail. "We're working hard to reach a satisfactory conclusion."

He said the primary hurdle was convincing the Energy Department to approve a $529 million retooling loan.

"The main issue appears to be their loan from the Department of Energy," Markell, a first-term Democrat and former state treasurer, wrote in a follow-up to Bloom.

Delaware saw both of its major auto factories close -- Chrysler closed its assembly plant in Newark in December 2008, and the GM plant was shuttered in July 2009.

The e-mails show Fisker was also considering other sites.

Laura Lovelace, an adviser to Fisker and president of Wellford Energy Advisors, said in an Aug. 10 e-mail to Bloom that Fisker was interested in buying NUMMI, which was run jointly by GM and Toyota Motor Corp., or closed GM plants.

Lovelace followed up with Al Koch, CEO of Motors Liquidation Co., the "Old GM," which is tasked with winding down and selling off the "bad" assets GM left behind in bankruptcy.

The following day, Koch referred Lovelace to NUMMI, since Old GM did not own NUMMI and could not direct activities there.

But he said the company "can move quickly with respect to GM locations." Koch offered Fisker three GM locations.

Koch said Delaware officials were especially aggressive in courting Fisker.

Markell and state officials are "the model of how a state should respond to an opportunity," Koch said in a Setp. 9 e-mail to Bloom. "If they were firemen they would have the fire truck rolling out of the firehouse before the alarm bell stopped ringing."

Markell changed his schedule to have dinner with company CEO Henrik Fisker in August as Delaware courted the company. Another Delaware official wrote Bloom to ask for help win the Energy Department loan.

Fisker will build a new $48,000 family sedan at the Wilmington plant that will retail for around $40,000 after tax incentives.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100514/AUTO01/5140352/1148/auto01/Del.-gov-helped-seal-sale-of-ex-GM-plant#ixzz0nwBe6vb2

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