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GM closing of Janesville plant may be accelerated

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Associated Press
October 10, 2008
— A possible speedup in the shutdown plans for General Motors' Janesville plant prompted Sen. Herb Kohl to issue a statement Friday calling it a "dark day" for the community and the U.S. economy.

But there was no confirmation from GM on when the Janesville plant will halt production of the sports utility vehicles made there. Gov. Jim Doyle and U.S. Rep. said GM hasn't ruled out a proposal to make other vehicles in Janesville.


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 on 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.


Doyle and Ryan issued statements Friday evening 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.



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