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Vince Vitrano: Not For Broadcast

WHO DIDN'T SEE THIS COMING?

BAD NEWS FOR JANESVILLE, AND WISCONSIN

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The recent history of the Janesville GM Plant shows US auto makers have been behind the curve for years.

Rising gas prices have been taking a bite out of our economy for nearly a decade. First the outrage over 2 bucks a gallon... then 3... now 4. Raise your hands if you think we'll ever pay less than 3 bucks again.

We've finally reached the point that we all knew was coming, or at least we should have known. The price of gas is causing us to change the way we live.

The clearest example of this is the announcement that General Motors was shutting down its SUV plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. They make the biggest of the big gas guzzler's there. They crank them out with American ingenuity and Wisconsin pride. It's just, no one can afford to drive them anymore.

So that's it. An announcement like that can be a city-killer. The ramifications of this closing will be felt for decades. I still remember driving around Kenosha for a story a while back. I asked my photographer, who grew up in nearby Racine, what the giant swaths of weed-covered, vacant acreage right near downtown were. The old Chrysler plants, he said. Years later, still nothing but blight.

While Toyota and Honda were developing hybrid technology and even helping conventional cars like the Civic and Corolla get 35 miles per gallon, GM was investing more money in the Janesville plant. As recently as 2004, the company put $175 million into its Janesville operation, the operation that built huge vehicles that get less than 20 miles per gallon.

Now here we are, just 4 years later, and GM says the future is in small cars and alternative energy.

No kidding. Too bad it took so long to realize that, and too bad it will cost 2600 good Wisconsinites their livelihood, and too bad it will cost the City of Janesville its very identity.

emails: vvitrano@todaystmj4.com

 

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