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Demolition Teams Ready to Roll at GM’s Old Janesville Plant

New company looking to redevelop old plant.

by on Feb.13, 2018

GM's former plant in Janesville, Wisconsin appears to be on the verge of demolition and redevelopment.

A St. Louis-based development company is moving ahead with plans for the demolition of General Motors’ old assembly plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, which was once of the most profitable factories in GM vast manufacturing portfolio.

The plant was still turning out full-sized Chevrolet sport utility vehicles when it closed for good in the middle of the bitter recession amid the financial crisis that forced GM to file for bankruptcy.

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The 4.8 million square-foot plant, which sits on 300 acres near the center of Janesville was sold in December 2017 to Commercial Development of St. Louis, Missouri. Commercial Development told local officials that it plans to re-develop the property.

Last weekend, demolition equipment began showing up around the vacant buildings on the site, according to reports on social media site maintained by active and retired members of the United Auto Workers. The post generated a long thread of responses from workers and the families of workers that employed Janesville residents since the early 1920s.

At the insistence of the UAW, GM put the plant on “standby status in 2009, which meant the property was never transferred to the “old GM” after the bankruptcy. Instead the factory in Janesville, which is the home of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, remained company property until it was sold last year. The plant officially “closed” when GM settled its new contract in 2017.

(GM gets four bites on sale of Wisconsin plant. Click Here for the story.)

Throughout the years, however, the Janesville plant has become a symbol of the economic decline of Rust Belt and the migration of automotive jobs from the upper Midwest to the South and Mexico. Chrysler closed its assembly plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin, years ago and Ford also shut down its assembly plant in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2011.

The Ford plant in St. Paul has already been demolished and the property, which overlooks the Mississippi River, is now up for sale.

Commercial Development noted “preliminary activity” at the GM site in Janesville could include “environmental remediation, demolition of some or all facilities, and extensive redevelopment planning.”

(Click Here for details about what GM’s Texas SUV plant is doing to save on energy.)

“Our team understands the historical significance behind this project, and we are pleased to lead the redevelopment process. We are very impressed with Janesville’s pro-growth leadership and look forward to working with them, as well as Rock County and the state of Wisconsin to help create new growth opportunities,” CEO Randall Jostes said in a release.

In the original release in December Commercial Development said it was interested in the property partly because the Janesville area has a “strong local workforce,” access to major highways and proximity to universities, among other attributes.

The plans for the demolition come as the popularity of the full-sized SUVs built in Janesville, Wis. thanks to the introduction of new full-saving technology and cheap gasoline. Ford just announced plans to increase production of its full-size SUVs. Ford is also making plans to bring out a replacement for the Ranger, a model it abandoned after closing its plant on the Mississippi.

(To see more about Ford investing $25M to expand production at its large SUV plant in Kentucky, Click Here.)

GM, meanwhile, has spent well over $1 billion to modernize and expand the plant in Arlington, Texas, that is now building the company’s full-size SUVs.

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