City examining options for downtown GM plant

The city will need to find a new use for the 80-year-old stamping plant.

Jeremy Brilliant/Eyewitness News

Indianapolis - Union workers overwhelmingly said "no" to keeping their jobs at the GM Stamping Plant downtown. Now, the city is hearing from others who may want to say "yes" to keeping the site going.

The future of the 80-year-old facility is up in the air. Once home to 6,000 employees, the stamping plant now has one-tenth of that workforce. By this time next year, the entire facility will likely be shuttered.

"This was not a good day for that plant," said Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, adding that the city will also feel the impact. "Absolutely, because there are a lot of workers there that could contribute to the city of Indianapolis that do good work throughout the city, provide a good, solid tax base for the city."

Those workers overwhelmingly rejected a bid by JD Norman Industries to purchase the plant. The buyout would have kept the plant open, but cut $29/hour union minimum wages in half.

"I just feel half wages is not for me. Everybody I know is not willing to work for half wages and I'm not willing, either," said GM worker April Vaughn.

If GM closes the plant down a year from now, as expected, it would mean the end of some 700 jobs that exist at the facility. It would also likely mean the end of nearly $2 million in property taxes collected annually.

The employees will be eligible to work at other GM plants across the country. But the sprawling manufacturing center and warehouse will be abandoned by bankrupt GM if it's not sold.

"They've got a year to kind of wind this down and move all the dyes out and, of course, the employees will move to other GM opportunities," said Indiana Commerce Secretary Mitch Roob. "And we'll look to remarket the building."

But finding a buyer won't be easy, especially one interested in 2.1 million square feet of space.

"We do have people coming in looking for a million square feet sometimes, so that does happen," Ballard said. "This might open it up. We'll have to see what the qualities of that building are and what it could be repurposed for."

Tuesday, city officials say they were contacted by multiple manufacturing companies and real estate brokers interested in the property. The city wants the site used for manufacturing, but if that does not happen - it's not sold and GM turns the property over to the city - the industrial clean-up, which could take years, will likely be paid for by the federal government.