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GM plant closing not expected to stall Detroit's rebound

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By Associated Press

DETROIT — General Motors’ planned shutdown of its Detroit-Hamtramck plant would leave only one auto assembly factory in the city known for “putting America on wheels,” but the closure and job losses are not expected to stall-out Detroit’s comeback since its 2014 bankruptcy exit.

Experts say a more tech-driven and medical industry economy is moving Detroit further from a reliance on manufacturing and that GM’s downsizing in the name of cost-cutting and investment in autonomous and electric vehicles won’t hurt as much as past mass layoffs and plant closings.

Detroit once was home to about a dozen massive assembly plants. A Fiat-Chrysler facility on the east side would be the last if GM closes its Detroit-Hamtramck plant. About 1,500 people work at the GM plant while Fiat-Chrysler’s Jefferson Avenue plant employs about 5,000. Fiat-Chrysler reportedly plans to reopen a former engine plant on the city’s east side to make Jeep Grand Cherokee SUVs with three rows of seats starting with the 2021 model year.

“Manufacturing is now a tech industry — you don’t have to hire as many people to make as much stuff,” said Ned Staebler, president and chief executive of the small business incubator TechTown Detroit. “It’s not just General Motors. Every major OEM (original equipment manufacturer), major manufacturer is going through similar processes. It’s a trend that is going to continue.”

GM wants to close four facilities in the United States and one in Canada. Nearly all of the 8,000 white-collar jobs GM expects to cut company-wide would be at the automaker’s technical center just north of Detroit in Macomb County’s Warren.

Some of the 3,300 global blue-collar job losses would come from the Detroit-Hamtramck plant and a transmission facility in Warren.

The jobs account for only .2 percent of local county employment “muting the immediate effect of the plant closures,” Moody’s Investors Service said in a report.

That means there is less reliance on those jobs and plants to supply tax dollars needed to help pay for city services and fill out Detroit’s operating budget.

But, Moody’s wrote, the impact could grow “as GM reduces salaried employees, if reduced production hurts ancillary suppliers or if there is a broader slowdown in the industry.”

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