New GM plant likely in Lansing region, Hollister says – Lansing State Journal
LANSING — General Motors Co.’s recently completed half-billion-dollar investment in its Lansing Delta Township Assembly plant could be a sign it has another bold move in mind for the Lansing region.
Former Lansing Mayor David Hollister told the Lansing State Journal this week he anticipates that a second auto plant will be built in the township within the next “5 to 7 years.” GM officials declined to comment.
The Delta plant occupies 320 acres of property GM currently owns at Millett Highway and Guinea Road, just west of the Interstate 96 and Interstate 69 interchange. The automaker owns an additional 780 acres of undeveloped land in the area, wrote Erin Davis, a GM spokesperson, in an e-mail to the LSJ.
“GM isn’t in the farming business,” Hollister said.
Hollister is well connected with auto industry power brokers, members of the state Legislature and the local business community. After two decades as a state representative, Hollister served as Lansing’s mayor from 1993 to 2003.
In the mid-1990s, he spearheaded a regional effort to save the region’s automotive industry and keep GM jobs here. His Blue Ribbon Committee made up of leaders in business, government and education declared a victory when the Lansing Grand River Assembly plant opened in 2001. A second mid-Michigan plant, Lansing Delta, was added in 2006 and remains the automaker’s newest plant in North America.
Hollister points to GM’s completion this month of a $583 million retooling and expansion project at Lansing Delta as proof the auto industry now considers mid-Michigan as a growth area after years of economic uncertainty and turbulence. The project added 181,000 square feet to the the plant’s body shop, 54,000 square feet to the paint shop, 28,000 square feet to its general assembly area and will prepare the plant for a “future product” that GM hasn’t named.
“The industry is coming back, new product is critical, there’s flexibility and a skilled workforce that’s critical, you have land available that doesn’t have to go through the political process to get designated, and you got infrastructure,” Hollister said of the reasons he believes a new plant will be built. “It’s all there.”
Davis declined in an email to comment on Hollister’s prediction. In addition to Hollister, other local leaders remain encouraged about the potential addition to the existing Delta plant’s footprint and its impact on the economy. The plant currently produces the GMC Acadia, Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave crossovers.
The Lansing Delta Township site has another advantage over other markets for a new GM plant because of a regional partnership formed Wednesday that includes the chairs of Ingham, Eaton and Clinton county boards of commissioners, Michigan State University, the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and members of Lansing’s Financial Health Team. Their goal is to create a unified vision for the region that emphasizes job creation, innovation, talent acquisition and retention, infrastructure and transportation.
Eaton County Board of Commissioners Chair Blake Mulder said if GM continues to thrive it makes sense for a second plant to open in the township.
“We got the space; we got the workforce,” Mulder said. “We got all the supplemental plants there. The machine is all set up and ready to move.”
About 3,200 employees at the Delta plant returned to work this week. Most employees at the plant were off work since May because of the retooling and expansion project. The plant has 2,954 hourly employees, 245 salaried employees and three shifts. The Lansing Grand River Plant, home of the 2016 Camaro, added a third shift in April and employs about 2,300 people. That plant also builds Cadillac ATS and CTS models.
Bill Reed, president of United Auto Workers Local 602, said there’s been speculation since the Lansing Delta plant opened that a second plant could be built at the site. He remains cautiously optimistic. Reed represents about 2,800 union employees at Delta and said high demand creates daily overtime opportunities for workers and Saturday production shifts.
“Being in the auto industry, you don’t bet on your future,” said Reed, a second generation GM veteran. “You make your hay when the sun is shining and make sure we’re building a quality product for our customers so our customers come back to us.”
Reed said there are employees who work at the Lansing Delta plant who often spend more time at the plant working then at home with their families. The average employee at the plant works 40 hours, five days a week, but there are also temporary employees still seeking full-time jobs, Reed said. Lansing Delta employees who were off while the plant finished its retooling and expansion were laid off and received unemployment before they came back to work this week.
Delta Township Supervisor Ken Fletcher said last week the township’s efforts to pitch a second plant to GM won’t stop. A growing auto supplier base in the area strengthens the pitch. Magna International Inc. opened a $75 million, 290,000-square-foot exterior parts plant, called DexSys, on Mount Hope Highway in 2014.
“We will continue to advocate that Delta is the ideal locale,” Fletcher said.
GM announced in January that it will be moving production of the GMC Acadia from Delta Township to Spring Hill, Tennessee. The Spring Hill Plant will make the 2017 Acadia, but the Delta plant is expected to produce the 2016 Acadia and and Acadia Denali through its life cycle. The Lansing Delta plant isn’t expected to lose any jobs during or after the relocation.
It’s unclear when a new vehicle will be announced and how it will affect the plant’s current production of the Acadia, Traverse and Enclave. The plant is capable of building about 1,100 cars in a 24-hour period, a production mark that plant leaders expect to maintain.
While there is momentum building in the Delta Township, Fletcher warns that this is no time to get over confident.
“I think any community that tries to rest on their laurels is going to have their lunch eaten by somebody else nowadays,” Fletcher said.
Creation of Hollister’s Blue Ribbon Committee over two decades ago and efforts to keep GM in the region is the focus of a book expected to be available this fall.
“Second Shift: From Crisis to Collaboration,” is based on a documentary film released over a year ago. The book, to be published by McGraw-Hill, is expected to be a 290-page, 75,000-word collaboration co-authored by four experts with community ties. The book is expected to be in stores and online by October.
A 60-minute “Second Shift” documentary can be viewed for free online at WKAR’s website: video.wkar.org/video/2365564756
For information about the “Second Shift” book and documentary, visit secondshiftfilm.com.