Janesville18.3°

Closing won't stop city's efforts

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JAMES P. LEUTE
October 14, 2008
— The expected loss of high-paying General Motors jobs will have a dramatic effect on the community and will be mitigated only by other economic development initiatives or a GM decision to build something else here, city leaders said Monday.

"It makes me heartsick," council president Amy Loasching said at a city press conference hours after GM announced it will stop building full-size sport utility vehicles in Janesville on Dec. 23.


The upcoming job losses won't help Janesville area unemployment, which in August was 6.7 percent, the highest among Wisconsin's metro areas.


As a GM employee and United Auto Workers member, Loasching said she and her co-workers at the Janesville plant have seen GM's handwriting on the wall for months.


"We expected this as far back as June," she said. "It was just a matter of time."


Loasching estimated that the indefinite layoffs will affect about 2,500 workers at GM and local supplier companies Lear Corp. and LSI. Indirectly, the job losses could reach 4,000 to 6,000 people, she said.


That's on top of similar cuts earlier this year when GM cut its Janesville production from two shifts to one.


Loasching said she's hopeful that the General Motors Retention Task Force, a local coalition of industry, business and community leaders, will be successful in their efforts to convince GM to bring another product to Janesville.


But the cash-strapped automaker needs money to retool plants to build more fuel-efficient vehicles, she said. Even if Janesville is successful in landing a new product, workers will be laid off for quite some time, she said.


Acting City Manager Jay Winzenz said the city will continue with its economic development efforts that have landed three new employers in the last two months.


LiquiPur, Assembly & Test Worldwide and Cummins all recently announced they will open operations in Janesville.


"Economic development is an ongoing process," Winzenz said, adding that the city needs to continue to tell the story that Janesville "is a great place to do business."


That's important, Loasching said, because Janesville does not have enough jobs now to accommodate the displaced workers, let alone high-paying jobs.



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