Janesville20.2°

Spring Hill plant expected to get engine-building nod

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Associated Press and Gazette Staff
September 15, 2010
— General Motors plans to recall about 400 idled union workers to its plant at Spring Hill to build four-cylinder engines for its mid-size crossover vehicles, an official said Tuesday.

A person briefed about the new jobs provided the employee count to The Associated Press and said the recall is due to increased demand for the four-cylinder engines. The person did not want to be identified because the plan has not been made public.


In addition, GM will announce that it is investing millions in the Spring Hill engine plant to build the next generation of the company’s Ecotec four-cylinder engine, the person said. The factory already builds three four-cylinder engines.


GM spokeswoman Sherrie Childers Arb declined comment Tuesday about the jobs but said a media advisory about a Friday announcement at the plant in Tennessee was forthcoming.


The automaker laid off about 2,000 workers at Spring Hill last year and about 800 of those workers have relocated to GM plants in other states.


GM’s assembly plants in Spring Hill and Janesville are the only two shuttered facilities listed on standby status, which means they are still part of the post-bankruptcy GM and could open again for production if the automaker needs capacity.


GM ended its production of light-duty sports utility vehicles in Janesville in December 2008. Medium-duty truck production ended in April 2009.


In the U.S., the engines built at the Spring Hill plant go into the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain midsize crossover vehicles, the Buick LaCrosse luxury sedan, and the Buick Regal midsize sedan, all of which are selling well.


UAW Vice President Joe Ashton is scheduled to be in Spring Hill on Friday to help make the announcement, the source said.


GM is considering a move to offer only four-cylinder engines in its midsize vehicles, although it was unclear if that would be announced on Friday.


United Auto Workers Local 1853 President Mike O’Rourke declined comment Tuesday about the jobs but described what he had heard about a Friday announcement as “good news.”


“If this is true, this is a fantastic start,” O’Rourke said.


He said he and others in Local 1853 leadership are continuing “to work diligently to get all our membership back to work.”


The prospect of GM adding jobs is also welcome news in Maury County, which had a 14.5 percent unemployment rate in July.


Debbie Hargis is the office manager at Bagsby Tractor and Truck Service in Spring Hill, which worked on trucks for a company that hauled vehicles for the GM plant. She said the jobs are “going to help Spring Hill a great deal. When people get hired on, it creates more of everything for the area.”


She said “every business in this area has felt the effect” of the layoffs.


GM laid off workers last year when it moved production of its Chevrolet Traverse after a $600 million overhaul of the Spring Hill plant, where GM two decades earlier started building the Saturn brand.



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