GM, UAW co-sponsor Super Pull for Lions

Friday, July 13, 2012
General Motors Spring Hill Manufacturing and the UAW Local 1853 present their sponsorship checks, totaling $1,500 for next week's 36th Annual Super Pull of the South to the Chapel Hill Lions Club members Friday morning in Chapel Hill. Front row from left, Shannon Meredith (Lions Club), Mike Herron (Local 1853 Unit Chairman), Tim Stannard (1853 UAW Vice President), Chris Gilbert (Lions Club Tractor Pull President), Ken Knight (Spring Hill Manufacturing Complex Manager), and Larry Chapman (Lions Club). Back row from left, David Bortz (UAW Region 8) and Lions Club members Brian Williams, Tom Smelzer, and Jerry Hooper. Photo by Anthony S. Puca

General Motors and the United Auto Workers Local 1853 are going to the Chapel Hill Lions Club Super Pull of the South starting one week from today.

And sometime soon, certainly before fall, GM will launch production of its highly efficient Ecotec engine at its Spring Hill plant. Meanwhile, America's biggest vehicle manufacturer is hiring new workers for the plant northwest of here in Maury County.

All of this from Lee Ann Williams-Maley, GM's Spring Hill manufacturing communications manager, during telephone interviews this week when she shared the limelight with UAW Local Chairman Mike Herron.

"Once the date for the SuperPull of the South was nailed down, we called Detroit to schedule the display," Herron said of the "huge motor sports display," that's a cooperative venture between the company and the union.

"It includes a series of displays with interactive and simulated racing," he said. "It's very informative and interactive."

Calling it "one of the best UAW/Chevrolet displays," the local union chairman added that the Lewisburg dealership, Lyons Chevolet Buick GMC, "will bring product."

GM's spokeswoman anticipates that will be the Chevrolet Equinox, the vehicle set for production in Spring Hill.

"We're doing very well at Spring Hill," Williams-Maley said. "Production of the Equinox will begin in the second half of this year. It's our first" vehicle to return to the production line since new car demand dropped precipitously several years ago.

"We began two years ago in September of 2010," she said of preparations for production of the Ecotec engine. "We're almost ready for a launch of that product. It's to be launched this summer."

The Ecotec engine is already produced at GM's powertrain plant in Tonawanda, N.Y., but its launch at Spring Hill will come with fanfare and an opportunity for people to see the engine, she said.

A "large part" of the new hires in recent months have been toward that end, she said.

First-hand inspection of GM products will be in Chapel Hill at the annual tractor pull, an event that swells the number of people in the north Marshall County town by a factor of three.

Chevy's Equinox "will be stationary at the tractor pull, but visitors will be able to climb into the vehicle," Williams-Maley said.

The Equinox boasts averages of 32 mph on the highway and 22 mpg in the city.

As for employment at the Spring Hill plant, Williams-Maley said there were 1,743 people employed at the plant as of the end of June. They are hourly and salaried employees.

"But we've added some" since then, she said.

In contrast, "There were just shy of 1,000 employees" working at the plant in April 2010," Williams-Maley said.

"There have been more than 200 new hires since the beginning of 2012... and that includes hourly, salaried as well as contract employees," she said. "Contract employees are being brought in for various launches at the site."

That includes the new engine and a vehicle," Williams-Maley said, "And we'll have a few other smaller launches."

In anticipation of a need for employees, GM has been "conducting outreach," she said.

Some of that is developed from GM's Web site: where job seekers can apply online. The company is also accepting referrals from current workers.

GM is also looking to America's military veterans as prospective employees by participating in job fairs for vets.

"We've reached out to military bases in Alabama and Tennessee to share information so they will have an opportunity," Williams-Maley said.

"Applicants are screened with a work-type simulation, especially for those in the skilled trade activities," she said.

Once selected, the new employees are provided an opportunity to practice what they'd be doing on the job to make their transition to the work place as smooth as possible.

"Once hired, part of their training is more simulated work - environment training - like what you would be doing on line," Williams-Maley said.

New employees will have an opportunity to work with senior leaders as part of their orientation. That includes Complex Manager Ken Knight, UAW shop chairman Mike Herron and assistant plant managers: Ed Duby for engine and components; and Jack Patten for the vehicle assembly side.

Many Marshall County residents and local government leaders have been well aware of the nature of GM's plant at Spring Hill - pointing to its versatility to manufacture various models.

That specialized aspect of the plant gives the facility a greater opportunity to operate more frequently. For example, as one kind of vehicle becomes more popular than what another plant can produce to meet demand, the Spring Hill plant can be configured to fill the need.

"When GM has a hot product, they can make more," Williams-Maley said. "Now the Equinox is popular."

And that's what's to be made first in Spring Hill.

"We would have the ability to work on any vehicle GM produces," Williams-Maley said. "It gives a lot of opportunities... It's an innovative plant."

It's been known for months that the Equinox will be produced in Spring Hill. The next vehicle set for production there is still to be announced, "perhaps in November," she said.

The Equinox is now being produced at plants in Canada.

As for an announcement about another vehicle to be produced in Spring Hill Williams-Maley said, "The company has been very vague on what that vehicle will be. They didn't include the time of an announcement in a recent news release."