To their relief, the area's General Motors factory workers discovered on Monday that a $600 million investment by the company will secure their jobs well into the future.
Dan Akerson, GM's chairman and chief executive officer, stopped by the Fairfax Assembly and Stamping Plant to announce the construction of a 450,000-square-foot paint shop, the installation of a new stamping press and other improvements. The plant makes the Chevrolet Malibu and the Buick LaCrosse.
"It's wonderful to be on a team that means so much to this country," Mr. Akerson told a large gathering of United Auto Workers members and others at the plant. "This is a testimony to how well this plant is run."
The upgrade represents one of GM's largest plant investments ever, building atop $2 billion it has invested in Fairfax for the past decade.
The news comes at a time when the company continues to emerge from a recent bankruptcy that was resolved by the federal government. Mr. Akerson noted the tough economic conditions while congratulating employees on their teamwork. Nearly 4,000 hourly and salaried employees work at the plant.
"I'd say the last four years have been really rough," he said. "But the tide has turned. ... We've got to keep this going. It's working well."
GM will return as a global competitor because it will have the most loyal and enthusiastic customers, he said.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback also hailed the renewed commitment to his state.
"This is a fabulous day for us," he told the crowd. "Manufacturing is back in the United States. We have a competitive advantage."
A St. Joseph auto dealer said the Fairfax investment will translate into better business for the area. The business featured a long row of 2013 Malibus on its lot Monday afternoon, with the car remaining a strong seller.
"I think it makes a pretty strong statement," said Steve Colson, general manager for Randy Reed Chevrolet. "I think that's actually pretty good for us."
Area economic developer Terry Rumery of Chillicothe, Mo., said continued strength at the plant bodes well for auto-related businesses and those willing to commute from the region to Fairfax and Ford's Claycomo plant.
"We're certainly seeing some activity ... suppliers ... looking for new locations," Mr. Rumery said. "They like to be as close as they can to the plant."
Construction at the 3.2-million-square-foot plant is slated for later this year and is expected to take two years to finish, increasing the plant's footprint by about 15 percent. GM is investing $1.5 billion in North American plants this year.
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