Saturday, April 11, 2009

Corker in Middle of Michigan-Tennessee Fight

Tennessee Senator Bob Corker is taking a little heat from the Michigan media for his support of the General Motors plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, which may be targeted for closing.

Posted By on Sat, Apr 11, 2009 at 6:29 PM

Corker, who will be in Memphis April 14th to meet with business groups, has been one of GM's sharpest critics while managing to also be one of Spring Hill's biggest defenders.

In an interview with the Flyer in January, the Republican senator from Chattanooga said "I think Spring Hill is one of those assets that, even if GM were to go bankrupt, it would survive and thrive."

GM used to make Saturns in Spring Hill, the fastest growing community in Tennessee, but now makes the Chevy Traverse, a heavily advertised model that lists for about $27,000 and is GM's best-selling midsize crossover. The Spring Hill plant, 30 miles south of Nashville, employs 3,000 people. A plant in Lansing, Michigan makes three other vehicles on the same platform. So a battle for survival between those two plants is shaping up.

A story in the Detroit Free Press Friday said "there's every reason to believe General Motors Corps' Spring Hill plant could be on the chopping block, whether politics plays a role in the decision or not.”

The story also says, "Add to that the fact that larger trucks, SUVs and CUVs like the Traverse could take a hit if Obama's auto team demands a more aggressive move to fuel-efficient sedans."

Corker, however, thinks Spring Hill should survive. He wrote a column for the Tennessean last Sunday which said, "If the administration uses factors like efficiency, flexibility and the quality of the workers, our modern, adaptable GM plant in Spring Hill should do very well."

The plant was shut down in January and part of February.

Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga, also helped land a future Volkswagen plant to a site near Chattanooga.

In another Free Press story Friday, under the headline "Look who wants to protect a GM plant," the newspaper says Corker "is fighting like a Michigan Democrat to keep a General Motors plant open in his home state."

As the Free Press writes, "Corker's concern is that decisions on plant closings -- as GM cuts deeper to meet the Obama administration's mandate for more government help -- will be based more on politics than what’s best for the company."

The larger battle is between Tennessee and other southern states and Michigan and Midwestern states for the future of car manufacturing. If GM survives in its present form, the Lansing plant could have an edge over Spring Hill because it is closer to suppliers.

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