The General Motors Bowling Green Assembly Plant is "extraordinarily" close to sending the new Corvette Stingray to dealers.
"Things are a little bit crazy at the plant right now," plant manager Dave Tatman told about 300 people Tuesday at the Barren River Area Development District's annual luncheon at the National Corvette Museum.
Tatman said dealerships have "thousands" of orders for the vehicle, which has received positive reviews for its power, engineering and design.
"But something you might not know ... is that it's rated for 17 mpg for city driving and 29 mpg on the highway. I took a trip this weekend to Knoxville ... and I got 34 mpg," Tatman said.
General Motors announced in May 2011 that it would spend $130 million to improve and retool the plant to build the next-generation Corvette.
"We have exceeded that ... substantially," Tatman said.
This week, contractors were given approval for a $3 million city building permit to construct a Performance Build Center at the plant, where customers will be able to build custom engines for their cars. That, along with watching their cars being made on the assembly line, will create a one-of-a-kind experience, Tatman said.
Tatman said he knows the public is eager to get back into the plant, but he wants to ensure that employees are in a production rhythm. He expects tours, which generally are given to thousands of people each year, will return in late October.
"It's my responsibility to make sure we are making the best car possible," Tatman said.
Western Kentucky University interns have geared up for the task, and the National Corvette Museum is ready as well.
Many visitors often tour both the museum and the plant.
Museum Director Wendell Strode talked briefly about the museum's history and the greater influence it might have in the future with the opening in fall 2014 of the motorsports park. Strode said the museum has donations and financing to cover $15.5 million of the projected $20 million facility.
"We will probably be using the facility about 25 percent of the time. ... What we want you to know is that it will be available for others to use," Strode said.
The museum gets visitors daily, but on many days, most are interstate drivers who pull in for a few hours before leaving town.
"But when they come to the motorsports park, they are going to be here to stay for a few days," Strode said.
The museum gets about 150,000 visitors a year.
Also at the Tuesday luncheon, Warren County Attorney Amy Milliken was given the William H. Natcher Award.
"I'm shaking," Milliken said, clasping the award. "You probably don't know how special this is to me."
Natcher was Warren County attorney for several years before becoming a long-serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives. The award was established in Natcher's honor in 1994 to recognize distinguished service in government.
"This was a complete surprise to me," Milliken said. "I didn't know until I opened my program and saw my picture. That's why I'm dressed this way and not in a suit ... and I don't have any lipstick on."
Milliken told the crowd that she loves her job because she knows that she can affect lives.
Her husband, Wes Milliken, said that Amy Milliken takes her job very seriously.
"She is always available ... helps the county greatly," he said. "This is a nonstop, 24-hour-a-day position, and she operates it that way."
Wes Milliken said when the two began dating -- she was a student at Western Kentucky University, he was at Centre College -- he knew she would become county attorney.
"That's what she wanted to be," he said.
Amy Milliken's mother, Brenda Hale, said that before law school, Amy Milliken worked for then-Warren County Judge-Executive Basil Griffin.
"He would tell her every day, 'You are going to law school,' " Hale said.
After she became assistant county attorney, Griffin would make daily advice visits to Amy Milliken. She wrote those tidbits down in a notebook.
"He would be very proud of her," Hale said.
Unlike Natcher, for whom the award is named, Amy Milliken says she has no desire for service beyond what she is doing now.
"I feel I can have an impact here. ... We can do a lot for the BRADD with everyone working together," Milliken said, noting an agreement she is working on that would allow the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department to help provide service to Simpson County residents.
"If possible, I want to retire here from this position," she said.
-- Robyn L. Minor covers business, environment, transportation and other issues. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/bowserminor or visit bgdailynews.com.
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Original headline: Corvette plant close to sending Stingrays
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