One of the nation's three largest diesel-engine manufacturing firms, Detroit Diesel, is proposing to take over Tooele Army Depot North Area's huge-but-now-idle truck refurbishing facility.

The move, which could create hundreds of jobs at that closing base, would require officials to short-circuit federal red tape to have the base turned over to the community as private property by about May 15. Officials could sell or lease property to Detroit Diesel.Detroit Diesel, with headquarters and main manufacturing plant in the Detroit suburb of Redford, Mich., is a 6,200-employee company with a yearly gross revenue of more than $2 billion. It manufactures and remanufactures a variety of diesel and alternative energy engines used mainly in heavy trucks, buses and mining and industrial equipment, which it sells all over the world.

One of its four remanufacturing plants, Detroit Diesel Remanufacturing West, is located in Salt Lake City and employs close to 300 people.

Spokeswoman Nancy Martin said if the Tooele site works out, it may very well employ more than that, though things are preliminary at this point.

Utah's congressional delegation and Gov. Mike Leavitt met Thursday with Pentagon officials. They emerged from the meeting saying the deadline could be met if all parties work hard.

"We hope to have it finished," said Paul W. Johnson, deputy assistant Army secretary for installations and housing. "If they meet their deadlines, we'll meet ours."

He said the time line requires Tooele community leaders to submit by March 29 an economic conveyance plan outlining projected income, what resources Tooele plans to offer in exchange for the North Area and over what period that may be paid.

Johnson said many such items may need further negotiation.

"But I think it's a great opportunity for the community. I think it's a great opportunity for us (the Army), too, because when we transfer title to someone else, then we don't have the operating and maintenance costs - and that's real money," Johnson said.

Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, said another reason the Army should cooperate is that it needs Utah's help for other operations, including soon-to-begin burning of chemical arms at Tooele's South Area and an expected increase of testing of chemical and germ warfare defenses at Dugway Proving Ground.

"Where else can they go and get the cooperation they have? They don't get it in any other state. And I don't think they want to give up that good relationship that they have," Hansen said.

Leavitt and delegation members said Detroit Diesel has proposed to take over Tooele North's huge Consolidated Maintenance Facility - which the Army built for $110 million just before ordering the base closed which is considered a leading-edge facility for truck and engine repair and remanufacture.

When asked about Detroit Diesel's proposal, Leavitt said, "They have been out many times are quite enthusiastic about it. If the deal is structured correctly, they are anxious to move forward.

"It would be a very good thing for the community. They would employ people who are trained to use the facility. They would employ people at better than average jobs in that area."

Staff to the congressional delegation said other truck companies have also expressed interest and visited the facility, but Detroit Diesel is the only one to make a proposal so far.

They said the company would like to know soon whether and when the plant would be available, or whether it should seek another site. Staff also said all parties do not want delays in conveying the base because its old work force may move or disappear as it seeks new jobs.

They add the Army is set to finish a environmental study soon establishing what existing environmental problems are its responsibility to clean up - which is needed before conveyance and must be reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Officials said they do not yet have firm estimates on how many jobs Detroit Diesel may create - but say it should be several hundred. They note that while the company likely plans to do commercial work, most Army trucks once repaired at Tooele have Detroit Diesel engines - so the possibility of picking up Army work also exists.

Utah officials also said that a large company like Detroit Diesel could serve as a magnet to the industrial park that they hope Tooele's North Area, near Tooele City, will become.

They noted that nine small businesses were just given interim leases by the Army for other base facilities while it negotiates final conveyance to the community. They range from storage companies to a printer, a premanufactured building company and a company that recycles tires.