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Pontiac on tough road after plants close

Marketplace Staff Jun 2, 2009

Pontiac on tough road after plants close

Marketplace Staff Jun 2, 2009


Kai Ryssdal: Not long after it filed its Chapter 11 papers yesterday, GM announced it’ll be closing or idling 14 of its assembly plants. Two of the 14 fall within the city limits of Pontiac, Mich. Donna Kelley has lived in what used to be a GM company town for most of her life. Ms. Kelley, thanks for being with us.

DONNA KELLEY: Thank you.

Ryssdal: Tell me about Pontiac, Mich. What does General Motors, what did General Motors mean to the city?

KELLEY: General Motors was pretty much everything to the city of Pontiac. My family came from Harrisburg, Ill., and moved up here so that they could work in the shops because there was always work here. My grandfather worked there, my father, my husband. It used to be a booming town. Now, it’ll just be dead.

Ryssdal: Do you and your family blame the Obama administration for having eased the way for General Motors into bankruptcy?

KELLEY: No, not really. I think this has been coming a long time. It’s unfortunate that this is what it has come down to. I mean, my father worked at General Motors for 36 years, and when he retired he figured that my mother would always be taken care of because he was a salaried employee, and invested in the company, bought stock, did everything that he was supposed to do. And at least my mother didn’t live to see the complete downfall of General Motors. Because they always believed, you support General Motors, they’ll always be there for you. And now they just keeping taking it away, and you have to worry about whether or not you’ll even have money to pay your bills because of your pension.

Ryssdal: Do me a favor, Ms. Kelley, and describe downtown Pontiac for me today. What’s it like?

KELLEY: I very seldom even go down there anymore because it’s so depressing. When I was a little girl, we used to go down there every Friday night, it was a booming town, all the stores were open. My grandfather worked second shift, and we’d go spend the night with my grandmother. And that was how we would spend Friday night. We’d go down to Sears and Federal and Kresgees and just wander around. There’s nothing like that down there now.

Ryssdal: So, with General Motors all but shutting down inside the Pontiac city limits, do you think there’s a future for your city? Can it come back?

KELLEY: I would say it would be a very uphill struggle. I mean with all the other cuts and stuff that are going on in the education, and stuff coming out of the state of Michigan and the government. I think if that they ever do come back, it’s going to be quite an uphill struggle. It’s just sad. I’m just glad that my father isn’t here to have to see this after all the things that he said over the years.

Ryssdal: Donna Kelley lives and works in Pontiac, Mich. General Motors announced yesterday it’s going to shut down one factory in town and put another one on standby. Ms. Kelley, thanks a lot for your time.

KELLEY: Oh, you’re welcome.

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