By Andrew Ganz
Monday, Nov 21st, 2011 @ 12:02 pm
 
General Motors says that a $244 million investment into a Tennessee plant that once built Saturn vehicles will give it one of the industry's most-flexible production facilities.

The plant will reopen by building the Chevrolet Equinox in the second half of next year, but GM says that the facility will be capable of assembling any car from its portfolio should increased demand require another production site. GM will also continue to build the Equinox and its GMC Terrain sibling in Canada.

"Spring Hill has a history as one of GM's most innovative and flexible plants," said Cathy Clegg, vice president of GM Labor Relations, in a statement released to the media.

As a result of the investment, GM says it will create 594 hourly jobs and 91 salaried positions in the next half of next year. Of the $244 million, $183 million has been earmarked for "future midsized vehicles," a move that will eventually secure around 1,090 hourly workers and 106 salaried jobs.

GM idled the Spring Hill, Tennessee, plant in 2009 in an effort to consolidate production as a result of its financial turmoil. The plant opened in 1990 as the exclusive Saturn production facility and it became so synonymous with the now-closed GM brand that owners made pilgrimages to the small town about 45 minutes outside of Nashville.

GM took a controversial $17 million grant from the state of Tennessee to retool the plant to produce its Chevrolet Traverse, but the automaker later moved production to Michigan. As a result, Spring Hill's vehicle production lines have been idle since 2009, but powertrains and other components are assembled on site.

Spring Hill's future was secured earlier this year as a part of the automaker's labor negotiations with the UAW.

"The re-opening of Spring Hill is a testament to the value of collective bargaining," said UAW Vice President Joe Ashton.

"Collective bargaining works for companies, for workers and for America. Collective bargaining is what brought good jobs to Tennessee. It is what built our middle class. It is how workers and communities have a voice in corporate decision-making. Bargaining is what gives the working class a seat at the table."