WENTZVILLE — General Motors announced plans Friday to invest $1.5 billion to bring its “next generation” of midsize pickup trucks to market.
The company also promised to keep the vast majority of its 4,000 employees at work here.
“This is an exciting day for Wentzville,” said Mayor Nick Guccione.
The mayor said that he has seen major investments in Wentzville in the past, but “this is the biggest one yet.”
GM will spend $1 billion to upgrade the Wentzville plant in preparation for truck assembly, and will spend the other $500 million with plant suppliers, purchasing machinery, for instance, for outside companies, both local and far-flung.
GM President Mark Reuss said at the plant Friday that the investment demonstrates the company’s continued commitment to the plant and the community.
“The trucks built in Wentzville are part of the core business,” Reuss said. “And they enable us to push the boundaries of engineering and technology.”
The Wentzville plant’s paint shop, body shop and general assembly areas will receive upgrades, including new machines, conveyors, controls and tooling.
The announcement comes seven weeks after GM workers voted to end a 40-day strike — the company’s longest since 1998, when workers in Flint, Michigan, walked out for 54 days.
In the new contract, GM promised to invest $7.7 billion in at least five of its facilities, including $1.5 billion in Wentzville.
GM also agreed in the contract to retain 2,000 Wentzville jobs for at least four years.
But the facility employs roughly 4,000 hourly workers, plus about 330 salaried, and the promise to retain just half the jobs dismayed some — especially Missouri House members who had pushed unsuccessfully to tie employment to tax credits.
State lawmakers approved $50 million in tax breaks over 10 years for GM during the spring legislative session.
On Friday, however, the company re-upped, saying it expected its investment to retain about 4,000 manufacturing jobs at the Wentzville site.
The state Department of Economic Development said GM employs the equivalent of 3,730 full-time jobs, and, by agreement, the company has to keep 90% of those in order to receive the full tax incentives.
“We’re elated,” said Glenn Kage, president of United Auto Workers Local 2250, which represents GM workers in Wentzville.
Michelle Whitley, a GM worker and UAW member, said some workers worried when the contract only promised to keep 2,000 jobs.
“I think it was absolutely a thought in the back of people’s minds, that we don’t want to lose jobs here at Wentzville Assembly — we want to make sure to retain all of our jobs here,” Whitley said.
“I think the announcement is huge for our plant, and great news for our community,” Whitley said.
The facility currently makes the popular Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon trucks, as well as full-size vans.
GM plans to start readying the plant for the new products as early as this month.
The plant will be temporarily idled in late December for the holiday break, and it will remain so for a few weeks into January, said GM spokesman Dan Flores, as the company begins preparing the plant to make the new products.
Some plant employees will work during that time, and others will be on temporary layoff, receiving unemployment benefits.
All told, the shutdown will last from Dec. 21 until Jan. 21, the union said.