Michigan Gets Pummeled By GM Plant Closings

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- As General Motors Corp. on Monday named the operations it would close or put on standby as part of its reorganization, Michigan learned it would be taking the brunt of the bad news.

Half of the 14 plants GM plans to close or put on standby between now and the end of 2010 are in Michigan, affecting more than 8,000 jobs. Michigan has the nation's highest unemployment rate at 12.9 percent, and at least half a million workers already are receiving unemployment benefits in the state.

About 5,500 jobs in other states will be affected as seven other plants are closed or placed on standby.

In Michigan, GM plans to shutter a truck assembly plant in Pontiac by October and close engine and transmission plants next year in Flint, Livonia and Willow Run. A Grand Rapids stamping plant will close this month.

Oakland County's Orion Township assembly plant will be placed on standby starting in September, and a stamping plant in Pontiac will be idled in December 2010.

Michigan has lost nearly half its manufacturing jobs since they hit a peak in mid-2000, a loss of 438,000 positions. Most of those have been tied to the automotive industry.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm told CNN Monday that Michigan will be further hurt by the bankruptcy as communities and workers struggle to deal with the losses.

"During this summer, it's going to be really, really tough in Michigan. There are thousands of people who will be affected by the filing today and the restructuring," she said. Granholm planned to hold a news conference Monday afternoon to talk about GM's announcement and its effect on the state.

Hundred of people gathered on the lawn of the state Capitol in Lansing for a noon "Reinvest in America" rally with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow and mayors from several Michigan cities that are affected by the bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler LLC.

Some GM workers already are on extended layoffs as the automaker trims production because of lower sales. And auto suppliers are increasingly sliding into bankruptcy as all auto companies -- not just troubled GM and Chrysler -- struggle to lure reluctant buyers into their showrooms.

A few bright spots did emerge as GM laid out its consolidation plans. GM will begin building the Chevrolet Traverse crossover SUV at GM's Delta Township plant just west of Lansing, where the popular Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia are made. The Traverse now is assembled in Spring Hill, Tenn.

And the Michigan plant in Orion Township, north of Detroit, that was placed on standby because GM is phasing out production of the Pontiac brand could be in line to produce some other model down the road. About 3,190 workers now produce the Pontiac G6 at that plant. Also placed on standby is a stamping plant in Pontiac that employs 829 hourly workers.

"GM's Orion plant and the Pontiac stamping plant are excellent facilities uniquely situated to build GM's new small, fuel efficient car," U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, whose Michigan district includes Pontiac and part of Orion Township, said in a release. "The plants are close in proximity to key auto suppliers and advanced technology component manufacturing."

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, a longtime auto industry advocate, said Michigan needs help weathering the meltdown.

"GM employees -- white- and blue-collar -- suppliers, dealers, and auto communities will be hit hard by this process," he said in a release. "Now more than ever, we need to come together to develop and enhance training programs for our displaced workers so that they get back into the work force quickly."

Christina Bristow, regional operations manager in Jackson for Swiss-based staffing company Adecco SA, said people are taking advantage of retraining as they search for other jobs. Many also are resigned to taking jobs that pay far less than they're making now.

But other than seasonal work such as landscaping and tourism, they're not finding many opportunities, she said.

"We've seen a big drop in the jobs we have available, just because that's how the economy is in our state," Bristow said. "People are truly very concerned about what the future is going to look like, and just willing to do anything to get back into the job market."

Associated Press Writer Tim Martin in Lansing contributed to this report.

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