Kingsport Times News Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Business & Technology

GM decision to idle about 2,500 Tennessee workers at Spring Hill plant

June 25th, 2009 12:00 am by Associated Press






CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A decision by General Motors to build its new small car in Michigan leaves about 2,500 employees at the company’s Spring Hill plant facing unemployment.


A person briefed on the decision said Thursday that GM will build its new subcompact car in Orion Township, Mich.


UAW Local 1853 spokesman Todd Horton in Spring Hill said “no one is going to comment until we get the official announcement.” He said a news conference would be held Friday morning at the UAW union hall in Spring Hill to discuss employees’ futures.


The Spring Hill plant recently underwent a more than $600 million overhaul to build the Chevrolet Traverse crossover. Before it was identified as one of three facilities competing for production of the new small car, it was scheduled to go on standby later this year.


“I am going to remain optimistic,” said Cliff Goff, 53, a longtime employee at Spring Hill who has worked for GM since 1975. “I am a person who believes you have got a great work force. You have a great plant. General Motors is separating the bad GM from the good and reinventing themselves and looking for a new path to take. I would think they understand they have a valuable asset there.”


He said in a telephone interview that a “decision to do nothing with that plant would have a serious impact on our workers and our community.”


City Administrator Jim Smith said Thursday evening that the town is “down but not out. It’ll slow us down in the short run, but this plant is extremely viable. I anticipate we’ll be making cars here again.”


Gov. Phil Bredesen’s spokeswoman, Lydia Lenker, said late Thursday that their office had not been notified of GM’s decision.


Bredesen hours earlier said Tennessee’s bid to get Spring Hill selected was “nothing like” what the bankrupt automaker had originally sought. The governor told reporters earlier this month that his impression from meetings with GM officials was that the company wanted a large cash payment and not long-term tax incentives.


Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, Tennessee’s two U.S. senators, did not respond for comment Thursday.


GM announced when it filed for bankruptcy protection June 1 that the Orion Township and Spring Hill plants would go on standby status later this year, meaning workers could be called back if the company needs to increase production. The other plant competing for the small car work, Janesville, Wis., already closed in April.


Employees in Spring Hill are facing the uncertainty two decades after GM launched Saturn as its import-fighting, small car division in Tennessee.


GM built the Spring Hill facility to make sure Saturn wasn’t too heavily influenced by Detroit. They billed it as a “different kind of car company,” with a no-haggle sales technique and buyer loyalty gimmicks like the folksy homecoming picnics that drew owners to the Tennessee plant site. Initially, Saturn was a separate division of GM.


The separation was short-lived, though, and GM soon absorbed the Saturn leadership back into its headquarters.


Just two years ago, after GM made a failed attempt to go upscale with bigger Saturns, the Spring Hill plant about 40 miles south of Nashville lost the brand. GM has announced the sale of the Saturn brand to auto racing titan Roger Penske’s Penske Automotive Group Inc., which plans to continue selling GM-made vehicles but eventually partner with foreign carmakers.


Since an overhaul of the Spring Hill plant, spurred partly by state tax credits, workers there have been building the eight-seat Chevrolet Traverse.


GM is planning a new subcompact to compete with foreign models and has decided to build it in the U.S. instead of China. (AP)


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