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GM Plant Hums Along

   If those concerns have dissuaded some from investing in Louisiana, it should also be noted that
David A. Gibbons, Plant Manager, GM-Shreveport
existing operations have not been dissuaded from expanding in the state. Case in point: General Motors has invested approximately $1.3 billion in its Shreveport manufacturing facility within the last few years, including $250 million in late 2004 to launch production of the Hummer H3 — a smaller version of the H2. The expansion will add 300 jobs to the plant's 3,200-employee payroll. The plant currently produces Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks.
      The significance behind the October 2004 announcement that the H3 would be built in Shreveport is not so much that the location was selected over other GM sites. That die was cast some time ago. It's why the die was cast at all, back when GM decided to virtually double the size of the facility and tool it to be one of the company's most productive. H3 production was factored into that investment. Plant Manager David A. Gibbons explains:
      "Going back to the decision to build new facilities here for the Colorado and Canyon, any time there is a new product that may be built, our
company goes through various business-case scenarios," he says. "It's not a given that a specific plant will work on a specific product.
      Various factors play into that, including the reputation of the plant, the plant's labor climate, its level of productivity, the quality of the work ethic, management-union relationships, the experience and knowledge base in the area — all of that plays a role in the discussion. Does the organization know how to build trucks or cars? Here, we have historically been small truck builders, so we have that technical knowledge."
      Just as important, says Gibbons, is the type of relationship the company has with the state of
Louisiana and the city of Shreveport. "Has it been a good relationship, and have we been able to come up with win-win scenarios to support long-term strategic initiatives? Certainly in this case we have, not only with the state, but also with the city and the parish. That helps support the business case."
      At the end of the day, says Gibbons, it comes down to whether or not the plant is one in which senior management is comfortable investing more than $1 billion to produce products for many years to come. If it does not have a culture and history of performing well in terms of quality and productivity or is known to have poor labor-management relations, then all the incentives in the world won't justify the investment. "This plant has had a great reputation for the last 20 to 25 years," says Gibbons. "It has stood out."
      Two other factors support the Shreveport location. The South is a strong market for trucks, so proximity to market is favorable. And the area has proven well-suited to the changes in inbound and outbound freight and logistics brought on by the plant's expansion. "The city and parish were very supportive in making some infrastructure changes for us, such as widening certain roads to handle the increase in truck traffic," notes Gibbons. "Rail has not been a problem for us."

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