GM to invest $790M in Spring Hill plant, create 800 jobs – The Tennessean

General Motors announced plans Wednesday to pour $790 million in new investment into its Spring Hill plant, a move expected to create hundreds of jobs at the Middle Tennessee plant.

The cash infusion is part of commitments GM made as part of a four-year contract ratified in the fall by UAW members to invest $8.3 billion over the next four years at its new plants.

On hand during a news conference Wednesday at the Spring Hill facility, Gov. Bill Haslam heralded the announcement as highlighting GM’s commitment to Tennessee and solidifying the Volunteer State’s status as a major automotive sector hub. Haslam was joined by other local, state and federal officials at the news conference.

“Tennessee has an incredibly strong business climate, and we continue to attract investment from companies that can choose to do business anywhere in the world. It is important to see long-time partners like GM continue to invest in Tennessee and create high-quality jobs here,” he said.

The influx of money will go toward a new high-efficiency engine program and modernizing vehicle programs at the site. Construction is expected to begin next month and will last several years.

Spring Hill is now building the Cadillac XT5 and the GMC Acadia. Since 2010, the company has invested more than $2 billion at the site, including $936 million this year alone.

The automaker also announced a $118 million investment in its Bay City, Mich., Powertrain plant, which is expected to create 29 jobs and retain 67. The company has invested $249.4 million in the Bay City facility since 2010.

In Tennessee alone, the investment will create an estimated new 792 jobs. Hiring for those positions will begin toward the end of the year, according to GM manufacturing manager Arvin Jones.

The announcement comes on the heels of last week’s news that production at the Spring Hills plant would be temporarily shut down after a pair of earthquakes in Japan disrupted the automaker’s supply chain. GM’s facilities at Spring Hill; Oshawa Flex Assembly, Canada; Lordstown, Ohio; and Fairfax, Kan., are to be shuttered for the next two weeks that began Monday.

“As GM continues to assess the potential impact on its supply chain from the recent earthquakes in Japan, it is taking proactive steps to mitigate a part supply issue and is adjusting production schedules at four of its North American assembly facilities,” GM spokeswoman Courtney Zemke said.

An autoworkers’ union official said those employees affected by the shutdown will receive 74 percent of their gross wages for however long the idling lasts, as long as those employees have worked at the site for at least one year.

There are 2,643 workers — 2,271 hourly and 372 salaried — at the Spring Hill facility. Zemke said the company is doing what it can to lessen the blow of the disruption to its personnel.

Wednesday’s announcement has no impact on the production stoppage, officials said.

Mike Herron, chairman of UAW Local 1853, called GM’s announcement Wednesday a significant day for workers in Spring Hill.

“…It gives them a piece of mind knowing full well that they’ll be able to go ahead and work at this location for the foreseeable future, (and) even though we’re in a very cyclical industry, that we have a secure location here at this site,” Herron said.

He added that collective bargaining was “absolutely critical” to the automaker’s investment plan and said a group of UAW and GM officials were in Michigan last week finalizing the details.

The Spring Hill manufacturing facility opened 26 years ago and produced Saturn vehicles until 2007. In February GM announced the facility will build V8 engines for trucks and SUVs by the end of the year in a $148 million investment that is expected to retain about 200 jobs.

Detroit Free Press reporter Brent Snavely contributed to this report.

Reach Lizzy Alfs at 615-726-5948 and on Twitter @lizzyalfs.

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