Mayor returns from D.C. with hopes for GM plant

Mayor returns from D.C. with hopes for GM plant

Dinwiddie calls quick trip to capital ‘successful day’

By Jill Cecil Wiersma
  – May 24, 2009

SPRING HILL — Fresh from Washington, D.C., Mayor Michael Dinwiddie said he shook hands with the man who will likely influence the decision whether the Spring Hill General Motors plant stays open.

Dinwiddie, who was in the nation’s capital Tuesday with a group of mayors supporting American manufacturers, said he also invited "car czar" Ed Montgomery to visit Spring Hill and see the plant.

"We have the most technologically advanced plant in GM’s inventory, hands down," Dinwiddie said of the plant’s recent $690 million investment in retooling for the Chevy Traverse. "I told them we would hate to see this plant leave and that it would be an unwise business decision."

President Obama put Montgomery, the former deputy secretary of Labor, on his auto industry task force. Montgomery has visited several other plants, including one in Flint, Mich., earlier this month.

Dinwiddie asked him why he hasn’t been to Spring Hill.

"He said, ‘Because no one has invited me,’ " Dinwiddie said. "I told him, ‘I will do whatever is necessary to bring you and your task force to Spring Hill.’ "

That trip could happen sometime soon, said Dinwiddie, who said he hopes such a trip would make clear the impact a closing would have on the plant’s roughly 3,400 employees and the local economy through sales and property taxes those employees generate. The plant also pays the city $250,000 each year in lieu of property taxes.

It was a quick trip for Dinwiddie, who was sworn in as mayor only last month and had to leave one of his first board meetings as mayor to catch his flight.

Virg Bernero, mayor of Lansing, Mich., asked Dinwiddie to join other mayors for the trip during which the group met with a mix of legislators and aides.

"I thought it went well," Dinwiddie said. "I think it was a successful day."

Dinwiddie returned to Spring Hill Wednesday evening and said his mind is also focused on other pending decisions that could affect the local economy.

"GM is not the only job issue on our mind. The next big thing is the hospital," he said, referring to the June 9 date in Davidson County Chancery Court when the future of a Spring Hill hospital may be decided after nearly three years of appeals from Williamson Medical Center and Maury Regional Hospital.

"We need to promote that, too," he said. "I’m very optimistic about that decision. That’s 500 to 1,000 jobs right there."
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