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Posted on Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 3:30 p.m.

Hopes fade for Willow Run plant's revival under GM as goal shifts toward repositioning

By Nathan Bomey

Political officials have abandoned hopes of convincing General Motors to retain its historic Willow Run plant.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Michigan, and Ypsilanti Township officials confirmed they're no longer clinging to hopes that GM would reverse its June 1 decision to close the 5-million-square-foot plant by the end of 2010.

“The Congressman has turned his focus to helping the displaced workers get through the transition and creating new opportunities in Southeast Michigan,” Adam Benson, a spokesman for Dingell, wrote in an e-mailed response to an interview request. “The Willow Run facility will be a proud part of Michigan’s past, but he is now focusing on the future for those who relied on the plant. He will also continue to work with unions, workers and the community on redeveloping Willow Run for the future.” 

Officials are voicing cautious optimism, however, that the plant could find a new suitor - perhaps from the film industry or alternative energy sector.

Karen Lovejoy-Roe, Ypsilanti Township’s clerk, said prospective industrial tenants have taken tours of the site, but she declined to provide specifics. She said officials from Ann Arbor SPARK and metro Detroit's aerotropolis effort are involved in the repositioning process.

Local officials' hopes of repositioning the Willow Run facility got a boost after the Michigan Economic Development Corp. announced this month that two alternative energy companies had struck a tentative deal to redevelop Ford Motor Co.'s Wixom manufacturing plant. The deal illustrates the potential advantages of abandoned auto plants.

“We’re still hopeful that we will be able to get a new user in there,” Lovejoy-Roe said of the Willow Run facility. “There’s several different leads on usage of the property, so we’re exploring all of those.”

In its June 1 bankruptcy filing, GM declared that it would gradually shutter the Willow Run plant, displacing its 1,364 workers. The plant, which manufactured B-24 bombers during World War II, now has about 700 workers.

After the initial closure announcement, Dingell’s office and Ypsilanti Township officials announced an effort to convince GM to keep the plant.

The township filed an objection to the closure in the New York-based bankruptcy case, but it was dismissed.

The plant was placed in the “Old GM,” otherwise known as Motors Liquidation Co., which is slowly unloading its assets.

Lovejoy-Roe said that move sealed the fate of the plant’s GM heritage.

“There’s really nothing you can do about that,” she said.

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at, (734) 623-2587 or follow him on Twitter.


Top Cat

Tue, Sep 1, 2009 : 1:18 p.m.

Just for the record, the Yankee Air Museum does not have a B-24. It has a B-17 and a B-25. They have been looking for a B-24 for years without success. Almost all of them were scrapped after WW2.


Tue, Sep 1, 2009 : 11:09 a.m.

Yes, the Willow Run plant is historic! From the original tale of how Henry Ford had the plant built with a 90 degree bend so that the plant would not extend into Wayne County (he was angry with the Wayne County politicians), to the Kaiser-Fraser days, to the GMAD move of some assembly to Mexico via Texas, to the wall dividing the "dark side" from Ypsi Transmission. Perhaps it would be fitting, after the plant closes and the displaced workers are forced to call MARVIN every two weeks, for the Yankee Air Force to outfit its B-24 with WWII bombs, fly over the "plant", and make its drop. After all, they sink ships at sea. Why not clear the land by bombing it? How much tourist money would come into the area just to watch this spectacle? Might as well make a few bucks off the closing.

Top Cat

Tue, Sep 1, 2009 : 8:37 a.m.

And once more, Congressman for Life Dingell is just a spectator as our region implodes.

Laura Bien

Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 11:12 p.m.

Any smart person would pay attention to the facts ( "The U.S. is the fastest-growing wind market worldwide.The U.S. has led the world in new wind capacity for four straight years, and overtook Germany to take the lead in cumulative wind capacity installations. - Market growth is spurring manufacturing investments in the U.S. Several major foreign wind turbine manufacturers either opened or announced new U.S. wind turbine manufacturing plants in 2008. Likewise, new and existing U.S.-based manufacturers either initiated or scaled-up production. The number of utility-scale wind turbine manufacturers assembling turbines in the U.S. increased from just one in 2004 (GE) to five in 2008 (GE, Gamesa, Clipper, Acciona, CTC/DeWind)." Do a bit of homework, in4mation, before commenting.

Laura Bien

Mon, Aug 31, 2009 : 2:49 p.m.

In 1943, the plant was at its employment peak, with 42,331 workers building bombers. I wonder if the site can be retooled to build wind turbines, providing employment for local residents in one of the few manufacturing fields still alive; the market for turbines is growing.