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WW II plant to go space age

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A mock-up of a harpoon missile is displayed at the Teledyne Continental Motors-Turbine Engines facility on Laskey Road. Teledyne makes the turbo jet engines for the missiles.

Morrison / Blade photo Enlarge

A defense plant built in Toledo during World War II could get new life as a space-age research and development center, under a plan unveiled yesterday at the Teledyne Continental Motors-Turbine Engines facility on Laskey Road.

The Northwest Ohio Small Turbine Institute, as it is to be called, starts with a $1.3 million federal grant.

It is a joint venture between the University of Toledo's College of Engineering, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, Teledyne, and the National Aeronautics & Space Administration's Glenn Research Center.

The center is to develop small turbine engines for general aviation, military, and space systems in part of the 62-year-old plant that has produced thousands of engines for fighter trainers, cruise missiles, and other military aircraft.

The announcement by federal and local officials took place in the 373,000-square-foot plant that was built in the early days of World War II by the former Aviation Corp. It was used by Packard Motor Car Co. to make parts for Rolls Royce aircraft engines during the war, employing as many as 1,250 people.

The plant was taken over in 1954 by Continental Aviation & Engineering Corp., a predecessor of Los Angeles-based Teledyne Technologies Inc.

In recent decades, the plant has been operated by Teledyne under contract with the military, most recently the Navy. As recently as the 1980s, the plant employed more than 1,100.

The plant and its 28-acre site were transferred last year to the port authority as part of a federal withdrawal of defense-plant ownership.

"If something develops here, it could lead to more jobs," said Bruce Baumhower, president of United Auto Workers Local 12, in an interview. "This is a chance to revitalize this facility."

Local 12 represents about 30 workers of the 75 there who design, test, and assemble small turbine engines.

Daniel Johnson, president of the University of Toledo, said, "This is an exciting project for us."

James Hartung, port authority president, said his agency brought together the participants.

Mike Rudy, general manager of Teledyne's Toledo plant, said in an interview that even with the new institute, the plant has about 150,000 square feet of space available.

"We're looking for other businesses, [including] research and development and incubator businesses," he said.

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) spoke at the announcement: "Could there be road applications" for small turbines? "Small cars powered by turbines that could get 50 miles per gallon?"

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