General Motors revealed that they intend to retain 135 jobs at their Flint, Michigan plant, and add 15 new jobs in the next two years. The move comes as part of a new $124.5 million construction project, which will enable a new 850,00 square-foot paint shop to be built at the plant on Van Slyke Road. This is good news for the residents of the city, and comes in the wake of the devastating closures of many car plants throughout the state in recent years.
Michigan, and Detroit in particular, has long been known as the automotive capital of the world, with the car industry providing thousands of jobs for local residents. There are many reasons why Michigan developed into the dominant force in car making during the 20th century. Henry Ford lived in Detroit for starters. Then there was the abundance of high quality iron ore from the Mesabi Range in nearby Minnesota, as well as timber here in Michigan. Good rail links and access to water made it easy to ship cars to the metropolises of New York City and Chicago, and Detroit already had proven its success in heavy industry, having manufactured stove works for many years prior to the automotive boom.
Geographical advantage? Lucky accident? Or did Michigan become what it is today through the hard graft of its many plant workers and automobile employees? Maybe it’s a combination of all three. But, still, the statistics are astounding. A total of 125 different car companies were launched in Detroit at the beginning of the twentieth century. Ford help to devise the modern assembly line which became part and parcel of the automotive industry in Motor City in the following decades. In 1914, the company introduced the five dollar day, where industrial workers saw a significant pay increase, which helped to boost productivity as well as profit. The car industry brought workers from across the United States – and beyond – and soon Detroit, and the rest of Michigan, became one of the most ethnically diverse places in the country.
For those who want to experience Michigan’s long association with the automobile industry, try the Henry Ford Museum, located in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn. This vast complex and the surrounding Greenfield Village, contains vast structures such as Thomas Edison’s laboratory, and the shop where the Wright Brothers conceived the invention of the airplane. Both have been restored and moved to this location. There is also an extensive car collection which displays many vehicles from throughout history, and contains exhibits on how the car industry has had an effect on the culture of our nation.
The Automotive Hall of Fame, also in Dearborn, pays home to the thousands of workers who developed and advanced the car industry, whilst the Ford Rouge Factory is the only public tour of a car plant in the state, with the building measuring 1.5 miles long. Built in 1917, the Ford Rouge Factory once employed 100,00 workers and as is a must-see for anyone interested in the long and diverse history of Michigan. With the promise of a new General Motors plant in Flint, which will start construction in 2014, let’s hope Michigan’s affinity with the automobile industry will continue for decades to come.
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Above: General Motors building (Image source)
Below: Ford Motor Company, Detriot, Micihigan (Image source)
Author biography – Bradley Taylor is a freelance writer from Derby, England born in 1984 who writes about all aspects of the automotive industry. You can connect with Bradley on Google+ and follow him on Twitter.