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GM: Employment at Fort Wayne facility should remain steady

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

A General Motors Fort Wayne (GMFW) representative confirmed that there will be no change to the number of employees at the plant based in Roanoke.

GMFW communications director for manufacturing and labor Kimberly Carpenter said that employment at the plant will remain the same even though GM announced plans to close five plants and lay off nearly 14,000 workers across the U.S.

This does not mean that staffing changes will not take place at the plant. Carpenter said, “The majority of the staffing changes will take place at the plants that are unallocated,” since GM plans to stop production of the Buick LaCrosse, Chevrolet Volt, Cadilac CT6, Chevrolet Impala, Chevrolet Cruz, Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra Trucks with “T1” and “K2” trim packages which offer different transmissions.

Carpenter said that salaried employees who’ve worked with GM for at least 12 years were offered “Voluntary Separation” packages, at the time of the announcement, but Carpetner said those buyouts have concluded, saying “GM will need to go to an involuntary program.”

Carpenter said employment will follow demand for the GMFW plant, which produces heavy duty and light duty GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado trucks.

“Fort Wayne is building a product that continues to be in high demand,” she said.

Huntington County Economic Development CEO Mark Wickersham said there are quite a few automotive companies in the region, and although there aren’t any direct impacts of the announcement, there may be other ways in which Huntington County is affected.

“When you think about the supply chain network and you think about the consumer market and start asking additional follow up questions about steel prices, fuel economy standards and what sorts of indirect impact there might be, it becomes a little more relevant to our community,” Wickersham said.

He said luckily companies in our region and county are producing parts for “iconic” vehicles like the Chevrolet Corvette, Silverado and Lincoln-series vehicles, so there shouldn’t be too big of a local effect.

“The longer-term is beyond our control in terms of response by the federal government and some of the subsidies that the President has talked about,” Wickersham said. “If those actually end, then the question becomes how does that ripple through the system, and would it impact places like Fort Wayne and Huntington and northeast Indiana? It’s way too soon to know at this point.”

Wickersham said currently, Huntington County and Northeast Indiana are suffering from a shortage in workers for skill-based jobs, so he said the GM announcement may actually help the economy.

“There are so many employers locally who need additional workforce support,” he said. “Suddenly, we’re aware there’s a pool of workers from the automotive industry who have talent and skill sets in the talent area. Now, the challenge is can we actually recruit them?”

Actually, Huntington County and the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership in Fort Wayne began working with a marketing company to reach out to communities where lay offs recently occurred to attract them to the region.

“The economic development community overall – whether that’s through agencies like mine, the regional partnership, the state government or counties – we are very engaged in monitoring and staying on top of both the opportunities that might be presented through the announcement and also the concerns in trying to help mitigate any kind of issues that might surface as a result,” Wickersham said.

He said Huntington is not exclusively automotive, so the diverse showing of companies in the county help soften the blow of major layoffs.

“We have a robust, diverse economy, and the only issue that is of concern in that regard is that even though we are diverse, we are still heavily reliant on manufacturing, in general terms, as opposed to service or tech or healthcare,” he said.

Wickersham said he will be attending an meeting at GM headquarters in January for the annual international car show, where he said he will get a better idea of how things will impact Huntington.