Tonawanda News

Business

February 18, 2010

TOWN OF TONAWANDA: New GM engine line slated for 2012

Idled machines on one side and bustling activity on the other served as a stark reminder to crowds assembled at the General Motors Powertrain plant Thursday, sitting on the dividing line between productive industry and layoffs.

But all that unused space could be back at work in fewer than two years, as GM announced it is spending $425 million to place a new engine line at the town’s Powertrain plant, projected to be ready in 2012. It’s an investment that is expected to bring back every one of the facility’s laid off workers and even add some new ones.

Tonawanda’s plant is receiving a majority of the $494 million being spent on the next generation of four-cylinder Ecotec engines, something that Shop Chairman Bob Coleman attributes to the dedication of local workers and the quality they consistently produce. But that hard work hasn’t always been able to stave off tough times.

Past attempts at investment

Thursday’s event — complete with remarks from Gov. David Paterson — was eerily reminiscent of a similar gathering held in June 2007, when then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer came to town to commend the company for committing a $100 million diesel line to the plant. That announcement followed a January 2007 promise of a $300 million investment for a V8 engine line. But spiking gas and diesel prices and a poor economy killed both of those projects, leaving the jobs that were supposed to be created or saved in GM’s loss column instead.

Tony Jukiel, a millwright who has spent 37 years at the Tonawanda plant in various capacities, said the writing was on the wall for bigger engines before the company planned those new models.

“Even when they announced that new V8, I couldn’t see the V8 being the right thing,” Jukiel said. “The days of the muscle car are gone. I mean people with money can afford their toys, but most people are looking for economy.”

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