By KATHY BARKS HOFFMAN and DAVID N. GOODMAN
ORION TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — Michigan has snatched back a few of its fast-disappearing auto jobs, winning a high-stakes competition with two other states to build General Motors Corp.'s next-generation subcompact car.
The news is a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy Michigan economy that has seen unemployment hit a nation-leading 14.1 percent, lots of housing foreclosures, unpaid furlough days for state workers and uncertainty for thousands of others worried about whether they'll still be getting a paycheck in the months ahead.
GM said Friday it would use an idled midsize car plant in Orion Township, about 40 miles north of Detroit, to assemble small and compact cars. The automaker also had considered plants in Janesville, Wis., and Spring Hill, Tenn.
GM said it expects to start retooling the Orion assembly plant in late 2010, and run two shifts there by 2011, producing 160,000 vehicles annually. The move will save 1,200 jobs.
"We're delighted," Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. "I think the impact of reopening that plant and making the small car here will have a huge long-term effect not just on Oakland County but southeast Michigan and help us address some of the real serious employment issues that we have in this region."
A spokesman for Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle said GM Manufacturing Vice President Tim Lee told the governor Friday morning that the automaker chose Michigan. More here.