SPRING HILL, Tenn. – General Motors announced Wednesday that it is spending $790 million to build a new high-efficiency engine at its plant in Tennessee, creating nearly 800 jobs.
The investment is the latest boost for the Spring Hill Manufacturing Plant, where vehicle production was idled during the Great Recession. Since 2010 GM has poured $2 billion into the plant facility 30 miles south of Nashville that makes two four-cylinder engines and the Cadillac XT5 midsize SUV. The plant will also begin producing the GMC Acadia later this spring.
“Today’s announcement reinforces our absolute faith in this facility,” said Arvin Jones, GM’s North American manufacturing manager.
GM also announced it will spend $118 million at its powertrain facility in Bay City, Michigan, creating 29 jobs. The plant north of Detroit has 320 hourly workers who make piston pins, camshafts, oil pumps and other parts.
United Auto Workers have credited collective bargaining agreements with the company for ensuring production returned to Tennessee. The most recent contract signed last year said that Spring Hill would receive at least 700 new jobs as part of $1.9 billion in investments in U.S. facilities during the course of the four-year agreement.
Mike Herron, the chairman of UAW Local 1856, said the “collective bargaining process was absolutely critical” in bringing the latest investment the plant and growing the workforce to about 2,600.
Herron said the investment “gives the workers here the peace of mind that they’ll be working at this location for the foreseeable future even though we’re in a very cyclical industry.”
Herron stressed that all of the new hires will become full General Motors Co. employees, which contrasts with a common practice among foreign-owned automakers of hiring temporary contract workers at lower wage and benefit levels.
The UAW’s strong role at GM contrasts with Nissan Motor Co.’s mammoth assembly plant in nearby Smyrna and Volkswagen’s lone U.S. plant in Chattanooga. Nissan has defeated several unionization efforts at its Tennessee plant, while Volkswagen is fighting to prevent the UAW from gaining representation of a portion of hourly workers there.
Republican politicians like Gov. Bill Haslam have largely sought to keep the UAW from gaining inroads at among other automakers, but appear be willing to overlook philosophical differences on labour issues when it comes to the General Motors plant.
“They’ve made a big investment here and we’re very grateful,” Haslam said about GM. “In my mind it just shows that either form can work, but we want the workers to choose.”
Haslam said the state’s incentive package for the new investment has not yet been finalized, but confirmed that a secret $30 million appropriation approved by state lawmakers earlier this year will go toward the General Motors deal.
The Spring Hill turned out more than 3.7 million Saturn cars between 1990 and 2007 before undergoing an overhaul and turning to other GM products.
Associated Press writer Tom Krisher contributed to this report from Detroit.