GM closes transmission plant in Windsor, ending 90 years in city

WINDSOR, Ont. — It’s the end of the line for General Motors in Windsor, Ont., but Mayor Eddie Francis says he’s confident the city will rebound.

WINDSOR, Ont. — It’s the end of the line for General Motors in Windsor, Ont., but Mayor Eddie Francis says he’s confident the city will rebound.

Employees reported for work at the GM transmission plant in the southwestern Ontario city for the last time Wednesday.

The plant — which built transmissions for the Pontiac G5 and Chevy Cobalt — is hitting the off switch, ending 90 years in Windsor for GM.

Francis says this kind of closure is always a sobering time, and city officials are “deeply concerned” about the 500 workers whose jobs are disappearing.

He said the city would continue programs of diversification, and support efforts to retrain and re-employ GM workers.

“With characteristic Windsor optimism, we look forward to the promise of new opportunities,” Francis said in a statement.

“We regard today’s departure of GM as a transition rather than an ending.”

“We know we can rely on the resilience of our people and their determination to succeed, whatever the circumstances.”

Dan Garneau, the plant’s senior human resources administrator, calls it the end of an era and a loss for the community, the workers and for charities that GM has supported.

“After today, there will be no more GM in Windsor and that’s an unfortunate situation,” Garneau said.

“But it’s the reality of the auto industry in North America, so we have got to really just go on with our lives.”

The first GM investment in Windsor was a body plant in 1919 and operations grew over the years to create billions of dollars in investments and thousands of jobs in what Francis called Canada’s Motor City.

The company once employed more than 7,000 workers in Windsor.

“In war and in peacetime, General Motors of Canada, with its various operations in Windsor, has been an integral and invaluable part of our city’s life,” Francis said.

Canadian Auto Workers Local 1973 president Bill Reeves went through the plant Tuesday and said the closing is going to be tough on the 500 workers.

Reeves said employees knew in May 2008 that GM would be closing the plant, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier.

The company still has Canadian facilities in Oshawa, Ingersoll and St. Catharines, Ont.

The federal and Ontario governments invested a total of $10.5 billion in GM Canada in 2009 as the automaker struggled to survive the economic downturn.