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GM Gets Four Bites on Sale of Wisconsin Plant

Automaker's oldest plant shuttered in 2008.

by on Jun.21, 2016

General Motors has four potential buyers for its facility in Janesville, Wisconsin. The plant, GM's oldest, was shuttered in 2008.

General Motors is entertaining four potential buyers for an old – actually the company’s oldest – assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin.

The report of the interest in the site first appeared in the Janesville Gazette.

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The Janesville plant, which over the years has become a symbol of the economic decline of Rust Belt, was put up for sale after the United Auto Workers agreed to change the status of the plant to closed permanently during the 2015 contract talks.

Once the contract was ratified and signed, GM hired commercial real estate firm to sell its former auto manufacturing plant and 250 acres in Janesville. The plant built its last vehicle on Dec. 23, 2008, when GM was mired in the financial crisis that led to its filing for bankruptcy protection a few months later.

During the bankruptcy, GM, under pressure from the union and local political figures in Wisconsin,  agreed to a moratorium on the sale of the plant and said it was “idled” rather than closed, which stopped it from being turned over to the “Old GM” as part of liquidation of the company’s discarded assets.

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However, the hopes of local officials to see the plant re-opened evaporated. As part of the deal to market site now, GM has agreed to clean up the site so it can be redeveloped.

A new distinction as outlined in a tentative contract last fall moved the GM’s plant off a list of properties under moratorium from closure and sale. At the same time, GM has announced a series of investments in plants in Mexico.

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“The following facilities have been identified as plants closing during the term of the 2015 GM-UAW National Agreement: Janesville Assembly,” the UAW-GM contract stated.

The Janesville plant, which covered 4.8 million-square-feet, had started life as a tractor plant in 1919, and had employed as many as 7,000 workers at its peak in the 1970s. It was the oldest plant in GM’s manufacturing system when it closed in 2008, even though it built one of the company’s most popular vehicles, the big Chevrolet Suburban sport utility vehicle.

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The fate of the Janesville assembly plant, however, remains something of political football. The plant sits in the Congressional district represented by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan. Ryan’s opponent in the upcoming Republican primary has been featuring the Janesville plant in ads attacking Ryan. Ryan, however, holds a commanding lead in the contest.

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