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30 years and counting

August 11th, 2016

A look at the economic impact of GM’s Fort Wayne Assembly Plant

By Doug LeDuc | Fort Wayne Business Weekly 

When General Motors Co. opened its Fort Wayne Assembly Plant, the benefits for northeast Indiana’s economy were enormous and immediate. The impact continued to grow in the years that followed.

GM built its first pickup at the plant on Dec. 8, 1986, employing nearly 3,000 with an annual payroll exceeding $100 million.

According to the most recent data available, the plant’s employment has grown to about 4,100, with a 2014 annual payroll of $314.9 million.

The plant near the intersection of U.S. 24 and Interstate 69 runs three shifts making full-size and heavy-duty regular and double cab Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras. About 3,800 of its workers are hourly employees represented by United Auto Workers Local 2209.

When well-paying jobs of this type are created, employee spending on living expenses - including housing, transportation, furniture and food - creates at least an equal number of jobs in the region through the “multiplier effect” of this spending, according to conservative estimates.

In addition, the plant’s 2014 contribution to payroll taxes were $62.6 million, and the annual contribution of the plant, its employees, Local 2209 and the GM Foundation to community organizations was estimated at nearly $500,000.

The plant’s size has grown from 2.5 million square feet when it opened to 3.3 million square feet.

Through a $1.2-billion investment in upgrades and technology, an expansion that started in June 2015 will grow the plant to 4.9 million square feet by the time it is completed in 2018. The number of truck docks there will increase from 78 to 109.

In addition to upgrading its general assembly operations and building a new pre-treat, electro coat paint operation and sealing facility, the project will involve expansion and new construction for the plant’s material sequencing centers.

The plant has started using a north logistics operations center it already has completed, and everything else related to the project is on schedule or ahead of schedule, said Stephanie Jentgen, a spokeswoman for the facility.

Some of the equipment that will be replaced is 30 years old and some of the body shop processes that will be modernized were in use when the facility opened, she said. GM uses about 5,000 parts to assemble the pickup trucks it makes there.

“The automotive industry is so competitive it is absolutely essential to have the most modern, most effective, most efficient processes available,” Jentgen said of the project. “This positions us very well for many years here in the community.”

The plant has been celebrating its 30th anniversary through employee participation in and company sponsorship of community events such as the Three Rivers Festival, she said.

From the day it opened through July 21, the plant had built more than 7 million pickups on four platforms - the GMT 400, GMT 800, GMT 900 and, now, the K2XX.

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