Janesville GM Plant Closed in 2009 – After Obama Promised to Save It

August 30, 2012 - 11:39 AM

Janesville Plant

This photo taken Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, shows the closed down General Motors plant in Janesville, Wis., hometown of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

(CNSNews.com) – In his speech accepting the Republican nomination for vice president, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) told the story of a General Motors factory in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin, accusing President Obama of failing to keep a campaign promise to keep the plant open.

“My home state voted for President Obama. When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory,” Ryan said Wednesday.

“Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you ... this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That's what he said in 2008. Well, as it turned out, that plant didn't last another year. It is locked up and empty to this day. And that's how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.”

Ryan’s claims received widespread criticism from the Obama campaign and many liberal media outlets.

“He even dishonestly attacked Barack Obama for the closing of a GM plant in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin -- a plant that closed in December 2008 under George W. Bush,” Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said in an email to supporters Thursday.

The Washington Post official ‘fact-checker’ also attacked Ryan’s claims as false, using the same line about the plant closing in 2008:

“That’s not true. The plant was closed in December 2008, before Obama was sworn in,” Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler wrote Wednesday. “Obama gave his speech in February 2008, and he did say those words. But Ryan’s phrasing, referring to the fact the plant did not last another year, certainly suggests it closed in 2009, when Obama was president.”

But Ryan is in fact correct. The Janesville GM factory stopped production of SUVs in December 2008 and closed its doors for good in 2009 – less than one year after Obama promised to keep it open for another hundred years.

In his speech in Janesville, then-Sen. Obama said that if elected, he would support retooling the Janesville plant to make energy efficient vehicles. Despite his administration’s carefully shepherding of GM through bankruptcy, the Janesville plant has not been retooled to make anything.

The plant shut its doors for good in 2009. According to an Associated Press article in the local Rockford Register Star, the plant ceased operations of large SUVs – its main product -- on December 31, 2008 and was scheduled to completely shut down several months later.

“About 50 workers will remain at the Janesville plant to complete an order of small- to medium-duty trucks for Isuzu Motors Ltd. They’re scheduled to finish by May or June, and then the plant will close down for good,” The Rockford Register Star reported December 31, 2008, citing GM spokesman Christopher Lee.

Another article – from the Janesville Gazette – reported that the plant continued operations into 2009, building medium-duty delivery trucks for Japanese automaker Isuzu.

“Full-size sport utility vehicle production has ended at the local General Motors plant, but medium-duty truck production is continuing—not starting—in Janesville. And it likely will continue into May, when the lights finally go off in the facility that has been producing vehicles since 1923” the paper reported February 2, 2009.

In fact, a GM press release confirms that the automaker had placed the Janesville plant on “standby capacity” – an auto industry term for a factory no longer producing vehicles – in May of 2009.

“Janesville was placed on standby capacity in May 2009 and will remain in that status,” GM said in a June 26, 2009 press release.

In sum, the Janesville plant shut down the majority of its production in December 2008, laying off all but 50 of its approximately 1,200 employees. Those 50 employees remained at the plant making Isuzu trucks for several more months as the plant’s operations wound down.

As a candidate, President Obama promised to support re-tooling the factory to make more fuel-efficient vehicles and keep the plant open for a century. The plant, however, remains closed.