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GM deal with UAW brings jobs back to Tennessee

A General Motors worker assembles a car at the GM Lansing Grand River Assembly Plant October 28, 2010 in Lansing, Michigan.

Kai Ryssdal: Under the terms of its new deal with the United Auto Workers union, General Motors is going to add more than 6,000 jobs in plants around the country.

That includes a factory in Tennessee that's been mostly empty for two years. Production of a couple midsize vehicles has been diverted from Mexico to Spring Hill, Tenn., where as Blake Farmer reports from WPLN, workers and the town itself are breathing a bit easier.


Blake Farmer: GM put Spring Hill, Tenn., on the map when it started building Saturns here two decades ago. Thousands of workers relocated from Michigan to get things going, and many still live here, like retiree Mary Gandy.

Mary Gandy: They didn't have any place for us to live when we moved down here. We built this place.

It's a place that still largely rises and falls with the fortunes of Detroit. By 2009, only 800 workers were left in the plant. For the first time since GM moved in, more businesses closed than opened last year.

But 1,700 GM jobs are on their way back, and Spring Hill mayor Michael Dinwiddie expects that to spawn supplier and service jobs outside the plant.

Michael Dinwiddie: When you get 1,700 new people here, you've got another 10,000 jobs that are about to be created for the local community, so that is probably even more exciting.

David Motil: This is a wonderful man.

Outside a largely vacant UAW union hall, David Motil grabs Dinwiddie in a bear hug, thanking him for his work to get the GM jobs restored. Motil was one of 2,000 workers laid off in '09. To make ends meet, he started a side project.

Motil: You want to go see it? Come on.

In the union hall's kitchen, a woman grinds salt and pepper over a casserole dish of sliced onions and paper-thin potatoes. Motil has been teaching cooking classes.

Motil: I created this business so I could ride it out. But a lot of people who couldn't do that had to go to different locations, leaving their families here. And they pray for the day they can come back, and hopefully that day is very soon.

That day could be as soon as next year, just as long as the 48,000 UAW members ratify the new contract.

In Nashville, I'm Blake Farmer for Marketplace.

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