And to think some said it wouldn’t last.
I’m talking about the pecuniary marriage of General Motors and our beloved city.
It’s as potent as ever, nearly 70 years after the initial I do’s.
The economic lovefest was solidified again last month when GM announced intentions to invest a whopping $500 million in the massive Arlington Assembly plant along the 2500 block of east Abram Street.
This infestation of funds will prepare for the production of future internal combustion engine (ICE) full-size SUVs the company spits out and provide job security for the plant’s 5,000-plus employees for some years.
The four-million square foot plant is a vital operation that builds GM’s entire portfolio of full-size SUVs, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, GMC Yukon, and a line of those fabulous Cadillac Escalades.
“How cool is this?” asked a gleeful Arlington Mayor Jim Ross, who joined a litany of dignitaries for the happy day pronouncement. “This signifies a belief in the workers, who deliver day after day after day, and a belief in our community.”
GM employee Robert Nelson told an NBC 5 reporter how he’d toiled there for over 30 years, working in the tow-end pit doing front-end alignments.
“I make sure your vehicle goes straight perfectly,” he said, sounding like a proud papa. “The future looks bright, and we’re building these vehicles with pure love, and they’re standing in line waiting to buy them.”
At least that’s what GM hopes, particularly over the long haul. Arlington GM Plant Executive Director John Urbanic said that the half-a-billion investment would go toward new tooling and equipment in its stamping, body shop, and general assembly areas, with machinery upgrades involving technology.
Gerald Johnson, GM Executive Vice President, Global Manufacturing and Sustainability, said in a statement that the investment also points to the efforts of workers like Nelson, whom he called “dedicated Arlington Assembly employees,” who have “broken production records this year.” (He’s referring to the more than 34,000 new vehicles that hit the streets in March, a new record for the number of cars ever produced in one month).
We should also put out amid all this happy talk that with any long-term relationship comes deep valleys that test character. In December of 1990, GM Chairman Robert Stempel dropped a bomb on Arlington Mayor Richard Greene of a possible Arlington facility closure.
During a tense three months when the plant’s future was uncertain, Greene was constantly asked by media types what kind of hole a GM departure would leave here.
“My answer was consistent,” Greene recalls. “I told them not to underestimate our resolve to ensure that would not happen.”
There are still some uncertainties. Efren Martin II has worked at GM for 24 years and told NBC 5 how the latest facility news is “very up and down, like, what’s going to happen?” he asked.
I guess he’s referring to the absence of a hard yes on Arlington sharing in the electric vehicle glory.
The Arlington plant only produces vehicles with internal combustion engines that require fuel.
GM, you might recall, was the first American carmaker to aim exclusively to manufacture electric vehicles in the targeted year of 2035.
So the news is a big up and teeny, tiny down.
Urbanic is promising to be “very transparent” about GM’s vision over the next couple of decades. Let’s hold him, and GM, to that.
Still, our eternally-upbeat mayor is hopeful.
“We have such tremendous momentum behind GM,” he told the Dallas Morning News. “We have a wonderful product with these SUVs, a city that cares about these folks, and a great company. GM is going to be around for a while in Arlington. This is going to take us well into the next couple of decades.”
Kenneth Perkins has been a contributing writer for Arlington Today for nearly a decade. He is a freelance writer, editor and photographer.