LIMA, Ohio (AP) — A deal to upgrade Abrams tanks for Saudi Arabia will be a big boost for the nation's only tank-manufacturing plant, which just a year ago was on shaky footing amid numerous threats to its federal funding.

The $188 million contract with Saudi Arabia calls for most of the work to be done at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima, about 80 miles south of Toledo.

"It's the result of months of effort," said Lima Mayor David Berger, who leads a task force that has sought work for the plant.

The contract was awarded to private defense contractor General Dynamics, which operates the government-owned center.

It's one of several orders that were pursued to help keep the plant running, General Dynamics spokesman Rob Doolittle told The Lima News ( ).

The military has considered shutting down the plant for several years, citing deep spending cuts and a sufficient supply of battle tanks for the time being. A new defense spending plan finalized in January included enough funding to keep the plant operating through the next two years and maintain minimal production.

About 800 workers refurbish the Abrams tanks.

Debate last year over the potential cuts backed by the White House entered into the 2012 presidential campaign.

Foreign military sales have been helping to keep jobs at the plant. It already has done work on an armored personnel carrier for the Israeli military and other work updating tanks for Saudi Arabia.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, has been meeting with leaders from other countries and pitching the tank plant.

"Foreign sales like these are a key piece to keeping the Abrams line ready for the U.S. Army's future needs," Portman said. "I remain concerned, though, that the Army has not developed a comprehensive plan to meet their foreign sales goals. I'll continue to engage with our allies to find new partners to utilize this one-of-a-kind facility."