PhillyDeals: Fisker plans to hire 120 at Del. auto plant

Vice President Biden at the 2009 loan announcement for FiskerAutomotive, which aims to start production next year.
Vice President Biden at the 2009 loan announcement for FiskerAutomotive, which aims to start production next year. (SCOTT LEWISBloomberg News)
Posted: June 23, 2011

Fisker Automotive says it is planning to hire 120 engineers, technicians, and production workers, starting this weekend, at the former General Motors plant it is rebuilding west of Wilmington so it can start building electric-hybrid sedans there by the end of 2012.

After the hires this summer and fall, "there will be a continuous addition of jobs" until the plant starts producing $48,000 Nina sedans late next year, Fisker said Wednesday.

The California company didn't respond to questions about whether it will give preference to laid-off General Motors workers, who packed the plant with their United Auto Workers union leaders when Vice President Biden, who lives nearby, announced a half-billion dollars in government loans to fund Fisker in late 2009.

"They intend to hire the best people available, which would include former GM and Chrysler employees" laid off in Delaware plant closings, state economic development director Alan Levin told me. "They informed the UAW today."

But there's no union labor deal, Levin added: "The workers are going to make that decision."

Fisker already produces the higher-end Karma in Europe, for around $100,000 each.

Work on the Wilmington plant started last summer, and Fisker says it has sold more than 11 million pounds of old aluminum, iron, steel, and wood to recyclers.

Hierarchy

F. William McNabb, president of Vanguard Group, told the Wharton Leadership Conference on Wednesday how he and his lieutenants keep order at the Malvern-based, 13,000-worker, $1.7 trillion-asset mutual fund company. Here are some highlights.

Costs matter: "Paying more doesn't necessarily get you more. We've tracked all the recognition programs there are. They don't work. People need very clear expectations."

How to rise: "We have 700 or 800 people aspiring" for promotions to Vanguard's 200 key management jobs and its 10-member executive team, whose bonuses are based on Vanguard's total sales and other measures. "We do a very rigorous scoring of who should be promoted. Some of you may be thinking, 'Boy, not a lot of flexibility there.' And that's true."

Great minds agree: When Vanguard cut fees for some of its funds last year, "there was a real split [among top managers]. Then we decided to make the bold move. And there was no second-guessing. No 'Can I see you in private and make my case again?' If you're not with the mission, you should just get out."

But some things are left up to individuals: Vanguard's new dress code is business appropriate. "The theory is you are an adult. Figure it out."

Not much freelancing: "We have a really funny relationship with innovation. We don't want to experiment with other people's money. That's why there is so much crap in the investment world. We think that's a horrible way to innovate."

Not Nordstrom's, and not Wal-Mart, either: "Vanguard is a huge paradox. We want high quality and low cost."

$90 million deal

When President Obama was elected, Portico Systems chief Ned Moore predicted boom times. The prospect that tens of millions of Americans would get health insurance for the first time would mean more sales and profits for his insurance-payment software firm, he told me in 2008.

On Wednesday, San Francisco medical-software giant McKesson Health Solutions said it was paying $90 million in cash for Portico, of Blue Bell.

Emad Rizk of McKesson said he would keep Moore and his employees on board, including 100 in Blue Bell, while he tries to boost sales of McKesson's auditing, claims-approval, and connectivity services to Portico's 33 health-insurer clients, including Horizon Blue Cross of New Jersey.

The deal enriches Portico investors, including Edison Ventures of Lawrenceville, N.J., and Safeguard Scientifics Inc. of Wayne. Publicly traded Safeguard invested $6 million in Portico in 2006 and lent an additional $5 million in mezzanine debt. Safeguard expects to collect at least $32 million from its investment, plus its loan. Edison didn't respond to calls.


Contact columnist Joseph N. DiStefano at 215-854-5194 or JoeD@phillynews.com.

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