USA - GM eyes expansion at Delta Township plant

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DELTA TOWNSHIP – General Motors Co. plans to add nearly 210,000 square feet to its Lansing Delta Township assembly plant as part of a $37-million expansion of the facility that turns out three popular crossovers.

The township's planning commission this week unanimously approved a site plan that would add on to the factory's body shop and general assembly facility.

GM has not confirmed any plans for the Delta plant, where the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia full-size crossovers are built. A spokeswoman said only that GM is "developing a business case for a potential future investment" that could increase production.

But the new details shed light on the scope of the Detroit carmaker's proposed project, even without knowing what GM plans to do with the extra space. A larger body shop and general assembly building could allow the company to add or retool assembly lines, steps often taken when preparing to build a new or redesigned vehicle.

No changes to the Delta plant's vehicle lineup have been announced. More than 3,000 hourly workers build the three crossovers on three shifts that operate around the clock. There has been no indication more production jobs would be created.

"It obviously shows a long-term commitment of GM to the capital region," township Supervisor Ken Fletcher said. "It's great news for the region."

The expansion, spanning close to 5 acres, would add more than 181,000 square feet to the north and south ends of the body shop, and roughly 28,000 square feet to the north end of the general assembly operation.

The Delta factory already is a flexible plant, meaning it can adapt quickly to build a variety of vehicle styles. Expanding it could help it prepare if GM decides to build a new or redesigned vehicle there, said Bill Reed, president of United Auto Workers Local 602, which represents Delta's hourly employees.

"It's really a testament to say that our plant will continue to be upgraded and utilized," said Reed, adding that he hasn't been told of GM's plans.

GM applied for a tax incentive from the city of Lansing that would cut real property taxes in half for 12 years. Officials estimate the project would raise $4 million in new taxes, despite incentives, and split the revenue between Lansing and Delta Township as part of a tax-sharing agreement.

The company's application to the city said the project would keep 38 jobs when work finishes in June 2016. Construction has not started.

GM is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to expand its two Lansing assembly operations. Besides Delta, the automaker is spending $44.5 million to build a 400,000-square-foot logistics center at its Lansing Grand River plant, which makes the Cadillac ATS and CTS luxury cars. That facility should open by early 2015.

It also will invest $174 million in a 225,000-square-foot stamping plant at the Grand River facility, to open in 2016. Both are believed to be connected to the upcoming production move of the Chevrolet Camaro to Lansing Grand River, possibly in 2015.