(12/16/13) - General Motors is investing $1.3 billion in five U.S. plants. Nearly half of the money will be coming to Flint.
Monday afternoon, GM announced plans to spend $600 million at Flint Assembly. It will build a new paint shop there and make other improvements to the plant.
The city of Flint has already approved a 50 percent tax abatement for the new paint shop.
The move means GM plans to keep the truck plant operating for years to come.
The automaker will break ground in March or April on vacant property just south of the truck plant. If everything goes well, the first pickups should be painted there by the fall of 2016.
"These paint shops are not casual investments. These are investments in the future for a long time," said Mark Reuss, GM vice president.
Reuss was joined by UAW officials, GM management and politicians, in making the announcement at the truck plant.
"The new facility will be a water-based paint system, which is extremely important to the long term sustainability of our environmental resources," said Amy Farmer, GM Flint Assembly manager.
The design calls for a 90 percent reduction in sludge currently taken to landfills and for less use of natural gas and electricity. The paint shop won't create any new GM jobs in the short term, but improvements that make the truck plant more efficient could lead to more names on the payroll. Just less than 3,000 people work there now.
"As we are in a position where we can build more units on a daily basis, certainly that gives us the opportunity to grow as a team and as a workforce," Farmer said.
It's been estimated 1,000 construction jobs could be created by the project.
Both labor and management were happy to see GM headquarters showing so much confidence in Flint Assembly.
"I truly think, Mark, you'll be back because we're never going to stop showing General Motors where they need to invest their money. Right here in Flint, Michigan, Local 598," said Barry Campbell, UAW Local 598 chairman.
The new facility will give workers much more flexibility in how pickups will be painted. Parts of the current paint shop in Flint Assembly are about 40 years old.
"I think all Michiganders should be very excited about this. The comeback by GM has been very strong. They've got outstanding products, but then you look at the impact on Michigan overall, Michigan leads the country in coming back with manufacturing jobs," said Gov. Rick Snyder.
This may be the largest construction project in Flint since Buick City was created in the 1980s.
Aside from Flint, GM will also spend nearly $500 million to build a new 10 speed transmission in Romulus.
$121 million will be spent to upgrade operations in the Detroit-Hamtramck plant.
A transmission plant in Toledo, Ohio and casting plant in Bedford, Indiana will also see about $30 million each in investments.
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