A comparatively quiet media tour of General Motors’ Wyoming components plant last week belied its unceremonious, abrupt closing nine years ago, immediately depleting Wyoming city coffers of more than $1 million in tax revenue, the loss of more than 1,500 skilled jobs and a 66-year GM relationship to West Michigan’s economy. Its impact was profound for every regional business, across all categories, to say nothing of the wretched statewide impact of the Big 3 nearing or entering bankruptcy. Wyoming Public Schools and educational attainment suffered equally for loss of revenue.
While the $119-million upgrade at the 1.8-million-square-foot facility now provides jobs to 885 workers, the new tooling and equipment provide full-production, high-technology, advanced manufacturing jobs and positioning for future advances. And enhanced pay rates. The Business Journal finds, in fact, no manner of celebration could convey so profound an impact on the current or future regional economy. And perhaps little else better defines Michigan’s comeback, especially when considering the Detroit and Ann Arbor area high-tech transportation buildout in tech and mobility options, and the fuel provided for software and other technology applications across industry sectors still being invented.
As few as 18 months ago, GM’s investment details in Wyoming still were secret. Partnerships — and patience — between Wyoming city leaders, local and state economic developers can be cited as crucial for a successful outcome, from the brink of expectation that at first cast the plant to death by demolition and a myriad bureaucratic red tape.
Crucial, too, is the region’s skilled workforce, long considered by GM as the reason the Wyoming plant was its top supplier.
The Right Place Inc. economic development agency President Birgit Klohs underscores the skill sets now employed, emphasizing those “very sophisticated products and processes” are transferable careers in “anything from alternative energy (equipment) to automobiles.”
Ironically, the plant closing in 2009 was partly the result of significant decreases in sales of SUVs and trucks. Once again, it supports the production of axles for GM’s full-size truck line, which includes the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra.
The Business Journal cites this news for its long-term economic impact, but unlike 2009, it is news to celebrate.