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Pennsylvania Vows To Help Save Harley Plant

State governor said Thursday he was preparing a package of state aid designed to induce Harley-Davidson Inc. to maintain its motorcycle assembly complex in York.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said Thursday he was preparing a package of state aid designed to induce Harley-Davidson Inc. to maintain its motorcycle assembly complex in York.

The governor said a meeting Wednesday with Harley chief executive officer Keith Wandell and three other company executives convinced him that the threat to the facility was real.

"Harley is seriously considering leaving Pennsylvania," Rendell said. "They have been pursued actively by three other states."

The governor said Harley needs, essentially, a new modernized production facility as well as changes in work rules. Rendell said he would meet with union officials to try to work out a solution.

"I promised the CEO that Pennsylvania would get to work very, very fast ... putting together an offer to help them with the cost of building a new plant, some of the job-training costs that they would incur to upgrade the training for their incumbent workers," Rendell told reporters at a Capitol news conference.

Harley spokesman Bob Klein said the company will decide whether to move the facility after completing a study of its long-term competitiveness in the next couple of months.

"We have said it's certainly our hope that we can find the solutions that we need and remain in York, but if we can't achieve the needed changes, then we will go elsewhere in the U.S.," Klein said. He wouldn't say which other states are pursuing the facility or confirm Rendell's statement that there are three of them.

Klein said the York complex has too much capacity and one of its two main assembly plants is of World War II vintage.

"Neither plant has the flexibility we need to respond to the market as we need to," he said.

He said the large number of job classifications makes it difficult to shift workers into different duties, and there were also issues with overtime scheduling and absenteeism.

Milwaukee-based Harley has been cutting jobs this year as sales have fallen drastically and its stock value has been clobbered. In May, Harley announced it was exploring moving York's manufacturing to another state where it might be done more cheaply.

The York complex, with 42 buildings and more than a million square feet in area, employs about 2,500 workers and is one of the largest employers in that southcentral Pennsylvania community. At one point, Harley employed about 3,500 people in York, but this year alone it has eliminated 300 jobs there.

Harley has shed about 2,400 jobs nationally this year. Its total work force at the end of June numbered 9,200.

A phone message left at the York office of the union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local 175, was not immediately returned.

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