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Tax Credits Save Bloomington GE Plant, For a Few Months

Officials with General Electric’s Bloomington refrigerator plant said it will stay open longer than expected. The plant was set to shut down early next year, but GE has now delayed the closing date by at least a few months.

Company spokeswoman Kim Freeman said the company is reevaluating the closing because of federal tax credits that might help keep it open longer. GE had announced last year it would close the Bloomington plant because of high labor and material costs.

Thursday’s announcement signals GE’s shift to the manufacture of energy-efficient refrigerators at the Bloomington plant. Those refrigerators will be eligible for a tax credit applied to energy-efficient appliances.

Freeman said nothing is set in stone beyond the second quarter of 2010, but the tax credits could make it worth the company’s while to stay open even longer.

Carven Thomas is President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union 2249, which represents many of the 700-plus employees at the Bloomington plant. He said he’s cautiously optimistic about GE’s announcement.

He also said similar tax breaks could be a saving grace for blue-collar workers across the country.

“What I’m really hopeful for is that it becomes a trend throughout all of manufacturing,” Thomas said.

The tax credits in question were put into place in October of last year, under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, which was part of the federal government’s $700 billion bailout package.

There’s no word yet on a new closing date for the Bloomington plant, but the tax credits GE is taking advantage of are set to expire at the end of 2010.

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