It is about time for someone to ask the question, so I’ll do it: What happened to the many items representing Janesville’s General Motors history and heritage that were provided for what was billed at the time as a GM Legacy Center?
When Blackhawk Community Credit Union first announced its vision for such a place, the community collectively applauded. With a shuttered plant destined for obliteration, each artifact saved for display was a treasured community heirloom.
Hundreds if not thousands of items remain hidden away from the people in this community whose joint property they should be. The employees of GM created and supported Blackhawk Community Credit Union for years. It seemed only suitable that one last operating remnant of GM be entrusted with the automaker’s Janesville legacy.
Then a series of sudden changes took place within BHCCU, many without explanation. Ever since, questions about Legacy Center plans have been dismissed. Responses of the credit union’s board and public relations department can only to be defined as stonewalling.
The credit union, borne out of that partnership with the very workers who toiled and built Janesville’s GM heritage, has now absconded with all the memories with no explanation, no apology, no plan. It might be one of our community’s biggest “hidden secrets.”
I have tried the “official” route to obtain answers for the people who deserve them. Stonewalled. I have several off-the-record contacts that lead me to believe there is something amiss, but most are too afraid of retribution to come forward.
If, within the managerial hallways at Blackhawk Community Credit Union, no one is aware that people who were once loyal now fear the organization, you are aware now. For my part, whenever any organization reaches that point, it is time for someone to say “enough already” and ask some tough questions.
When BHCCU presented the idea of the Legacy Center, it displayed several objects in the collection at a community gathering. Excitement filled the room with the belief that the history of the plant would continue to live on and that parents could still show children and grandchildren some physical manifestations of the place that created so many memories and provided so many families a solid middle-class financial foundation.
“The business model changed” is what credit union officials tell us publicly. No doubt that is true. Previous leadership started down this path. Current leadership saw fit to change direction. The winners, from a pure accounting standpoint, are inside the organization, which saw profits larger last year than the previous year. The losers are everyone else.
I am not from a GM family. I never worked a day there. I never toured the plant. It took me a few years to understand the relationship between the community and the factory where so many worked. Companies changing directions is common. The continued stalling by the credit union is simply wrong.
BHCCU officials have a responsibility to explain their apparent withdrawal from the GM Legacy Center plan and offer a chance for other groups or organizations to come forward and complete the vision.
Blackhawk Community Credit Union is a supporter of the community in many positive ways. I commend it for that. However, it also possesses a cumulative history of the community that stays locked away without explanation. As I have before, I respectfully invite them to come on my program anytime to offer an explanation, an apology and a plan. I’ll wait.