GM to invest $175M in Lansing, bring back 2nd shift

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

Lansing — General Motors Co. said Thursday it will add back a second shift and 500 workers in late summer, and invest $175 million at its Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant for production of the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro beginning this fall.

The plant, which employs about 1,300 hourly and salaried workers on one shift, cut its second shift earlier this year amid slow demand for the Cadillac CTS and ATS cars. About 450 hourly workers were laid off.

GM and UAW Local 652 officials said nearly all laid off employees were placed in other plants including Lansing Delta Township Assembly, Flint Truck Assembly and the Flint Engine plants. Those workers have recall rights to return to Lansing Grand River.

"We're going to need about 450 employees to man up second shift, and then we'll make adjustments according to the demand," said Mike Trevorrow, GM's Lansing Regional Plant manager.

New hires are possible for the plant, but how many won't be known until GM completes the recall process with laid off second-shift workers, Trevorrow said. He said workers who transfer back from other plants ultimately may need to be replaced at those facilities, too.

"We've got a lot of people who want to come back," said Mike Green, Local UAW 652 president. "And we're excited to have them back."

Green said he expects some new hires will be brought in. "That's always good for the economy, good for our community, good for the members," Green said.

The Camaro was last built in the United States in 1992 and has never been built in Michigan.

"This is going to be an award-winning car," Green said. "We're very happy that the American muscle car is coming back home right here to Lansing, Michigan."

Lansing Grand River workers such as April Spiess, 40, of Laingsburg, say they are happy to land a car like the Camaro. "Everybody's just pretty excited jobs are coming back, people are going to have a standard, steady paycheck again and we're getting a second shift," said Matt Sleeman, 45, of Sunfield and a trainer at the plant.

The investment at Lansing Grand River includes new tooling and equipment for the Camaro, upgrading the facility for three new paint systems for specific Camaro colors and installing robot framing technology.

It's also part of GM's $5.4 billion it plans to invest in U.S. plants over the next three years, creating 650 new jobs. Since announcing the investment goal in late April, GM has identified about $2.8 billion in investments, retaining thousands of jobs including 500 at Lansing Grand River.

Camaro production is shifting to Lansing from GM's Oshawa Assembly Plant in Ontario. The move could cut 1,000 jobs in Canada, though GM is offering retirement incentives to eligible workers to help avoid layoffs. Lansing Grand River also builds ATS and CTS vehicles, which like the Camaro are rear-wheel drive cars.

The Lansing Grand River plant currently is building a $174 million stamping plant that is expected to open in 2016, which will add 100 to 300 new jobs, Trevorrow said. Earlier this year, the plant opened a $44.5 million logistics center that created 200 jobs.

On Tuesday, GM said it would invest $1.2 billion at its Fort Wayne Assembly Plant in Roanoke, Indiana, where it will add about 1.5 million of square feet to aid light- and heavy-duty truck production.

GM also has announced $439 million in investment at its Bowling Green Assembly Plant in Kentucky for a 450,000-square-foot paint shop, $174 million at Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kansas, for new equipment and technology for the next-generation 2016 Chevrolet Malibu and in late April said it would spend $783.5 million at three Michigan plants. Those investments include $124 million at Pontiac Metal Center for a new press; $520 million at Lansing Delta Township Assembly for future vehicles; and $139.5 million for a new body shop and stamping plant improvements at Warren Pre-Production Operations.

The carmaker also is considering a $161 million investment at its Flint truck plant that would retain 2,800 jobs and a nearly $1.3 billion expansion at GM's Arlington Assembly Plant in Texas. GM recently received tax abatement approval from the city of Arlington, which says GM's project would create 589 jobs.