With direct ties between the automotive industry and the Keweenaw Peninsula, could recent job cuts from General Motors have any economic impact to the area? Awkward and unsettling is the current workplace environment at many General Motors facilities as the first round of job cuts has begun for many veteran employees.
As many are being told that they need to find a new way to earn a living, not all see GM’s budget plan as a bad thing. “I think there’s going to be a lot of spinoff,” said 110th District State Representative Greg Markkanen, who says that the automaker’s long term goals could create local rewards in technical fields.
Markkanen said, “There’s going to be economic benefits from local businesses to future employees of (the MTEC) Smart Zone. It could open up more opportunities.”
The decision was announced in November that the corporation would cut 25 percent of its labor force and eventually close four North American plants, resulting in thousands of employment terminations. As the first wave of cuts began on Monday, a total of 2,500 employees are expected to be let go by next Friday. The facility has also stepped up its security team during the two week period, including the presence of armed security guards on the grounds as tensions remain high.
Markkanen said, “I think we have to look at the other end of it and come back around. It’s going to affect almost every industry. If you take jobs out of the economy for the automotive industry, there’s going to be other jobs in high tech.”
Meanwhile, the automaker has received some criticism as it is still hiring in technical fields in its effort to place autonomous vehicles on American streets. Company CEO Mary Barra attributed that to the progression of newer vehicles and their software driven nature in a recent press release.
It’s reported that severance packages are based on employment length and a full tenured staff member would receive no more than six months of continued salary payments, with shorter time served employees receiving lesser amounts. The sudden change will be hard to accept for many, but in the ever changing world of technology, Markkanen says there’s always room for growth.
“That’s why we need to give educational opportunities for people to retrain and to explore new career fields,” said Markkanen. “We have a premier five star research university there that really is in touch with GM and the auto industry, and gives students from freshman all the way to graduate students opportunities. Michigan Tech does that quite well.”
The former teacher and first year lawmaker says he’s adjusting well to his Lansing office and is grateful to be representing the people of the UP. “We’re answering the phone and talking to people about issues and concerns that they have and like my post in Facebook, we’re open for business,” said Markkanen.