GM Speeds Up Janesville Plant Closing
JANESVILE - General Motors plans to announce Monday when it will end production at its Janesville plant, and the news will be a "setback" for GM workers and the community, a Wisconsin congresswoman said Friday night.
Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Madison said she was briefed about the announcement that GM plans to make after meeting with workers at the plant.
She declined to comment on specifics but said it is "a setback for the Janesville GM workers, their families and the entire Rock County community."
"The loss of these jobs will compound the financial strain that families are already facing," she said.
Gov. Jim Doyle and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan said GM hasn't ruled out a proposal to make other vehicles in Janesville, and Baldwin said she hoped that incentive package could succeed.
GM announced in June it would idle the Janesville plant and three others making SUVs and trucks by 2010. Then last week GM said one of the four, in Moraine, Ohio, would close Dec. 23.
A person with knowledge of GM's plans told The Associated Press earlier Friday that the company is likely to announce further production cuts and possible plant closures, as well as an acceleration in the plant-closing plans, as early as next week as it deals with slumping sales and a collapse in its stock price.
GM spokesman Chris Lee would not confirm reports that the Janesville plant would halt production by the end of the year.
"We have nothing to announce at this point in time," he said. "When we do, we will tell our employees first, after which we will share that information with the rest of the world."
Doyle and Ryan issued statements saying GM was still considering an incentive package from state, local and union leaders in September aimed at putting a new product line in Janesville.
"We worked together and delivered a package that General Motors is still seriously considering," Doyle said. "I have received assurances from General Motors that any announcement is not a response to the incentive package we delivered to them last month, and that they will continue to consider our package."
Ryan said the possible acceleration of the plant closing was "obviously disappointing news, but not surprising given the drop-off of sales of sports utility vehicles."
Still, "I'm encouraged that GM is willing to continue a dialogue" about the incentive package.
Tim Cullen, a Janesville school board member and former state legislator, is among the group of local officials trying to persuade GM to keep the plant open.
He said he hadn't heard of any developments Friday, but even if production stops, GM could still start the factory up again later with a new line of vehicles.
In his statement, Kohl, D-Wis., said the plant has been a central part of the community for generations, and a closing would have "devastating consequences."
The Janesville plant makes Chevy Suburbans and Tahoes and GMC Yukon and Denali SUVs.
Wisconsin provided GM with $10 million in grants in 2004 to help with a $175 million plant overhaul. The deal required GM to keep 3,330 workers at the plant through 2010, but the payroll has been shrinking, going from 4,100 in 2003 to about 1,600 as of last month.
Doyle, Ryan and Kohl all said they would work to get the best deal they can for the GM workers.
The news also brought a comment from Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama who stopped at the plant while campaigning earlier in the year.
"Reports that the GM plant I visited in Janesville may shut down sooner than expected are a painful reminder of the tough economic times facing working families across this country," Obama said in a statement released by his Wisconsin campaign organization.
"This news is also a reminder that Washington needs to finally live up to its promise to help our automakers compete in our global economy. As president, I will lead an effort to retool plants like the GM facility in Janesville so we can build the fuel-efficient cars of tomorrow and create good-paying jobs in Wisconsin and all across America."
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)