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