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Farewell To GM’s Willow Run

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WWJ file photo

WWJ file photo

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After arming America and putting the nation in gear for over five decades, General Motors’ historic Willow Run plant will close for good at the end of the day, Thursday.

GM bought the gigantic facility in 1953 after its Detroit transmission plant went up in flames – and it was online in 12 weeks. Now 57 years later, the venerable plant will be part of history – in part, from an economic meltdown.

UAW Local 735 president Sterling Mullins says they were overwhelmed. “It has taken a while since that announcement to finally accept it and also come to grips with the fact that we have done, as workers and as a union, everything possible,” says Mullins.

Mullins says he remembers, just like it was yesterday, walking into the mammoth Willow Run facility over 30 years ago. “Scared to death, never been inside a factory before,” says Mullins who adds, “When you first hired in, the place was so big that you were afraid to walk away from the department that you were assigned to because you could get lost.”

Now a product of GM’s reorganization, Willow Run’s historic run comes to an end with the last transmission shipped out a week ago.

“You’re always wishing everybody a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and now you’re adding ‘goodbye’, ‘so long’, ‘farewell’,” says Mullins.

Of the 300-plus workers at Willow Run, 200 are retiring, with the rest to be relocated at other GM plants.

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