Doyle vows to fight to keep plant open
JANESVILLE Gov. Jim Doyle didn’t appear ready Tuesday to accept GM’s corporate line that it’s “highly unlikely” a new product would be introduced in Janesville.
“We will do whatever we can with GM or anywhere to try and make that happen,” Doyle said at the United Auto Workers Local 95 Hall.
He will discuss with GM options to keep the assembly plant in Janesville open.
“It’s the first day we’ve had to sort of absorb all of this. I guess, right now, I’m sort of sticking with the fighting spirit of these guys, and that’s where I want to be,” Doyle said, referring to the line of UAW officials behind him.
An emotional Brad Dutcher, UAW president elect, said the union would work to bring a more fuel-efficient product to the plant.
“We are committed to leaving no stone unturned,” said Dutcher, who has worked at the plant for 23 years. “We will exhaust every available avenue in an attempt to secure a future for our community.”
He predicted the closing would devastate the community but said delaying the closing to 2010 provides time to prepare, although the market could dictate the plant close sooner. While he didn’t want to provide false hope, Dutcher said he did not want union members to think the closing is a done deal for union leadership.
Doyle said the top-notch workers in Janesville are the heart and soul of Wisconsin and did nothing wrong to prompt GM’s announcement to close the plant by 2010.
“Everybody here did everything right,” he said to about 20 television crews from Chicago to Green Bay and many more photographers and print reporters.
Doyle recalled his many enjoyable plant visits and said today’s news was a kick in the gut and in many ways “like hearing about a death in the family.”
The governor blamed GM’s slow reaction to rising gas prices and said he wished top executives would have planned better.
State and local government will work with affected families to make sure they “land on their feet,” Doyle said.
A visibly bitter Doyle said GM gave him no indications the announcement was coming and touted Sen. Barack Obama’s plant visit earlier this year.
Saying “if”—not “when”—GM closes in Janesville, Doyle said the state would do what it can to recover as much money from incentives and grants given to GM.
State and local government has contributed $10 million in state training grants and an $8 million grant to improve truck access between Interstate 90/39 and the GM plant.
“I think we were on pretty good footing at that point,” Doyle said referencing the training grant. “Obviously, we made that investment for the purpose to try and make sure we retain these good jobs for people.”
Doyle reiterated he hoped to retain the good jobs and not worry about recovering that money.
“We’re going to do what we can to get the state’s money back,” he said.
Dean moving ahead with hospital plans
Despite the planned closure of the General Motors assembly plant in Janesville, officials in Madison said Tuesday that they still plan to build a $140 million hospital and medical complex in Janesville.
Mary Starmann-Harrison of SSM Health Care of Wisconsin and Craig Samitt of Dean Health System said their thoughts are with those affected by GM’s decision.
“Our commitment to the Janesville area remains firm, and we are moving forward with our plans to build a new hospital and physician office complex,” they said in a joint statement.
“The decision to build these facilities took many factors into consideration, including the projected need for more beds in the area by the year 2011, the desire of Janesville residents for a choice in hospital care close to home and the possibility of potential changes in major employer operations. We look forward to continuing to meet the healthcare needs of the Janesville community.”