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GM's Historic Willow Run Plant Closes After 68 Years

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On: Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 2:00PM | By: Sherry Christiansen


GM's Historic Willow Run Plant Closes After 68 Years

Despite our best efforts, nothing lasts forever. That is true of so many things in our lives. It’s also true of business. When our nation’s economy takes a dive, companies are forced to reorganize to stay in business. Many workers are caught in the wake of this restructuring. Such is the case with the GM Willow Run manufacturing plant based in southeast Michigan. After 68 years of building, the plant closed its doors on December 23rd.

The demise of this 5-million-square-foot powertrain plant can be traced directly back to General Motors 2009 bankruptcy filing. As part of their company wide rebuilding effort, many divisions were sold off while other plants were simply scheduled for closure. Willow Run is one of the last casualties in GM’s effort to crawl back from the brink of total collapse. For the 300 remaining workers at the plant, they’ll either be able to retire, transfer to another plant, or be forced to go on layoff. The last powertrain built at Willow Run was finished on December 15th.

For a few lucky workers, GM has offered buyouts on their contracts. This includes some of the skilled tradesmen at Willow Run. This deal will provide these workers with a lump sum payment of $60,000 to retire or move on. Kim Carpenter, a spokeswoman for GM, wasn’t sure how many of the workers have taken advantage of the buyout, but they have until March 1st to decide. That’s when the deal expires.

It was only ten years ago when the Willow Run plant had over 5,000 works who cranked out close to 22,000 component parts every day. By the time GM announces its bankruptcy plans, the number of workers had dropped to 1,364.

The Willow Run Plant had a proud heritage of manufacturing dating back to WWII, when the plant turned out an amazing number of B-24 Liberator bombers. The plant was built on farmland once owned by Henry Ford. When the U.S. entered into WWII, the need for military aircraft was essential. The first B-24 bomber rolled off the line and took to the skies in October 1942. When the war ended, the plant was converted to manufacture make car and farm equipment.

The plant is now up for sale, but it could prove to be a tough sell. It a buyer isn't found, the plant’s ownership will revert to a trust which is being set up to handle the leftover GM assets. Tim Yost, a spokesman for Motors Liquidation, said. “The trusts are supposed to be in place by the first quarter 2011,” Yost also said. “Big plants like these are hard to sell even in good economic times.”




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