GM expected to invest billions in U.S. plants

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. is expected to announce Thursday billions of dollars of investments over several years coming to multiple U.S. manufacturing plants, including two in Michigan, according to two sources familiar with the company's plans.

At least two GM . plants in Michigan are expected to receive new investments, which will be announced at a pair of news conferences the automaker has planned for Thursday. The investment news is expected to include a number of new jobs and jobs retained by the company, according to one source.

GM plans to make a "major U.S. manufacturing announcement" at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at its Pontiac Metal Center. Another announcement is slated at the same time at GM's Lansing Delta Township Plant.

The Detroit automaker, in a media advisory, says the announcement in Pontiac is a "positive news announcement for GM U.S. manufacturing." The media advisory for the Lansing announcement says it is a "positive news announcement for Lansing Delta Township Assembly."

GM declined to comment on specifics of the announcements, but a spokesman described it as significant.

Part of the announcement could be tied to a new press at the Pontiac plant. Several executives from GM and the UAW are expected to attend that news conference.

Last year, GM sought a tax abatement from the city of Pontiac for a $32 million project that included $30.3 million for a new press-bay addition at the Pontiac Metal Center. The city, in a memo, said the investment is expected to add 15 new jobs within two years after completion.

Pontiac said the jobs would pay an average hourly rate of $36.72, providing an estimated $5.7 million in income tax collections to Pontiac. GM sought a 12-year abatement, plus years for construction, which was approved.

Expected to attend the Pontiac press conference, according to the automaker, are GM North America President Alan Batey; GM North America vice president of manufacturing Cathy Clegg; UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada; UAW Region 1 director Chuck Hall; and Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman

The Pontiac Metal Center, a 1.2-million-square-foot site that faced closure around GM's bankruptcy, employs about 430. Hourly workers are represented by UAW Local 653.

Last November, GM announced it plans to invest $40 million for new dies at Pontiac Metal Center to prepare for a new vehicle going into Orion Assembly Plant, which also would receive $160 million in new investment. GM has since confirmed that vehicle is the Chevrolet Bolt, an all-electric car expected get 200 miles of range and cost $30,000 after federal tax rebates.

Workers at GM's Lansing Delta Township plant build the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia SUVs, which are due for next-generation models in the next few years. Last fall, GM announced a $63 million expansion there, including new space in the body shop for new robots and flexible tooling, more room in assembly and in the paint shop.

GM CEO Mary Barra and Batey are expected to attend a Monday news conference at GM's Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kansas, where the two will make "several major announcements pertaining to GM, Fairfax Assembly and customers," according to a media advisory for that event. Fairfax will be building the next-generation 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, due out this fall.

On Tuesday, the Arlington, Texas, City Council approved a tax abatement for a possible nearly $1.3 billion expansion at GM's Arlington Assembly Plant, where the automaker builds popular SUVs. That expansion will create 589 jobs, according to Arlington. But that work may not be part of Thursday's announcement, as GM said it is still reviewing the project.

Arlington approved an 80 percent tax abatement for 10 years on real and personal property, plus a waiver of fees that would be worth about $30 million to GM over that time period, Bruce Payne, Arlington's economic development manager, said in an email. Payne said Tarrant County also will consider a separate tax abatement.

GM has invested nearly $11.4 billion in U.S. facilities since 2009. It has announced big, multi-billion plants investments before, including a May 2011 announcement for $2 billion in investments at U.S. plants and $1.5 billion the automaker planned to invest in North America plants in 2013.

Last year, the automaker employed 51,600 workers in its 40 U.S. manufacturing plants and supported another 431,300 U.S. economy jobs, according to a study conducted by the Center for Automotive Research for the UAW-General Motors Center for Human Resources. The study was released Wednesday.

GM in a statement said it was pleased the center's study "demonstrates GM's direct positive impact in the U.S. and the ripple effect from our productive partnerships with the UAW, suppliers, dealers and government and community leaders."

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