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Tennessee governor predicts GM’s Spring Hill plant will make a comeback

In the wake of General Motors’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen is expressing optimism that the beleagured automaker’s decision to shut down its Spring Hill assembly plant in November does not mean that the facility has no future.

Spring Hill is one of GM’s newest assembly plants, the site of its Saturn production line.

Bredesen and state ECD Commissioner Matt Kisber spoke to reporters about the automaker’s plans to idle the Spring Hill plant starting in November of 2009. Both said although the news was disappointing, the potential is strong for Spring Hill to play a role in the assembly of a new compact, fuel efficient model General Motors plans to roll out in 2010.

”Spring Hill is GM’s newest, most productive and efficient plant,” said Governor Bredesen. ”The company has just completed spending more than half a billion dollars to retool the facility and make it more flexible. I find it difficult to believe GM would be willing to walk away from that investment.”

The Governor said he’s asked the Tennessee Department of Labor to put into effect streamlined filing procedures for any Spring Hill employees filing for unemployment benefits. While the announcement would mean a period of challenges for GM workers in Spring Hill, Commissioner Kisber was asked what an idled plant would mean for parts suppliers also operating in Tennessee.

”GM has contracts in place with suppliers for the Chevy Traverse (the model currently being built at Spring Hill),” said Commissioner Kisber. ”Even though the model will be transitioning to a plant in Michigan, we’re optimistic some Tennessee suppliers will continue to manufacture parts for the Traverse and will be able to maintain some level of employment.” Kisber said GM has told him some 600 GM employees in the power train and stamping operations will continue working at Spring Hill while assembly operations are on hold.

Joining the Governor and Commissioner for the press briefing were State Senator Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro and Representative Ty Cobb of Columbia, in whose districts Spring Hill is located.

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