GM workers hold on to hope - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

GM workers hold on to hope

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) --Janesville's City Council held a special media briefing on Monday afternoon to try to reassure residents that the city won't fall into a doomsday scenario when the GM plant closes in January.

The word of the day was "hope."  Interim city manager Jay Winzenz and council president Amy Loasching used "hope" about four times in their remarks:

"I believe the statement from General Motors gives the community hope," said Winzenz.

"I have a lot of hope because GM is still considering our proposal," said Loasching.

The two officials hope the Detroit automaker will retool the plant and bring in a new product, perhaps a smaller car or hybrid.  The officials wouldn't elaborate on specifics offered to GM, but say the company and the city continue to talk.

From the Associated Press:

Last month Governor Doyle offered an incentive package to GM to keep the Janesville plant open. Many people are hanging onto hope because executives haven't yet refused the idea,

When Dianna Applebeck was laid off from GM in June, the union told her you never know what could happen. Even now, with the plant closure moved up two years, she's hopeful this is not the end. Right now she's working with the Rock County Job Center to stay on top of her training.

"That's why I've decided to take the MSSC program just to hope that if they do, they can see that I might be qualified and can encourage other folks to take advantage of the program."

Local lawmakers expect this announcement will have a major impact on the local election. Monday morning, state representatives Kim Hixson and Chuck Benedict met with UWA to talk strategy.

Benedict, a Democrat from Janesville, says "We need a change from the top down, from the White House to the state house, down to local elections."

Lawmakers hope to stop Rock County from continuing a worrisome trend: currently unemployment rates are approaching seven percent.

Benedict says people want to stay, and says it's difficult for many to consider a move elsewhere.

In fact, Dianna Applebeck says in June, only a handful of workers accepted transfers to other plants. "It's hard to throw away that experience that you have and seniority and I think a lot of that comes into play. Also it's hard to leave your families. It's a comfort zone."

The Rock County Job Center says there are thousands of jobs available in the area, and they are using grant money to help train dislocated workers for those positions.

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