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Bond pushing auto bailout compromise; money too late for some

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(KWMU photo)
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Missouri Republican Kit Bond talks to Joe Clark (right, in glasses) at Clark's quality control business in Fenton

By Rachel Lippmann, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – A compromise plan to keep the struggling American auto industry afloat being championed by Missouri Republican Kit Bond may come too late for the St. Louis auto industry.

Senator Bond met with Fenton-area business owners and officials at Lumbee Enterprises Monday morning to discuss his proposal, which would use $25 billion originally intended for plant retooling as a loan until the Detroit Three can reach profitability.

Lumbee did quality control work for the two Chrysler plants in Fenton, and their St. Louis-area suppliers, and once employed 60 people full time. But this year, for the first time in the company's 18-year-history, founder Joe Clark had to make layoffs. And Lumbee will leave its warehouse space about three miles from the Chrysler plants on December 31st.

Clark will keep a small number of employees on fulltime to handle work for the Chrysler North truck plant - they'll use space at the Chrysler complex. And he'll try to find work for other employees at Lumbee's other locations - the company also does work with BMW. But many will be unemployed.

"All our people, we paid their insurance in full. And they're going to be in a lot of trouble," Clark said. He's also not optimistic about what the bridge loan could do for the city's auto industry.

"The minivan plant's not going to come back. The truck plant, the Dodge Ram, they're working one shift, six hours per day, and I don't know if a bridge loan will save the truck plant here," Clark said.

Bond is calling on Democratic leaders in the U-S House and Senate to take a vote on his compromise bailout when Congress returns December 8th.

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