GM stamping Manufacturers

Indianapolis' last industrial behemoth left from its century as an automotive manufacturing hub is about to shut down after shrinking for years.

On June 30, the long-planned closing of General Motors' massive stamping plant near Downtown will finally come, leaving an environmental trust armed with $3.7 million to clean a milelong site where auto parts have been made for nearly 100 years.

Closing the Near-Westside landmark is a legacy of a shrunken Detroit auto industry scaling back citywide: Ford just pulled out of the Eastside steering gear plant, Chrysler razed the Near-Southside foundry, Navistar shut the Eastside diesel plant.

"It's going to be a sad day when it closes. I kind of grew up in this place," said GM autoworker Bob Speece, 59, from the Center Grove area in Johnson County.

"But I've got to do what I have to do. I'm just glad I have someplace to go."

While city officials try to figure out what might come next for the 100-acre site -- parks, condos and small factories have been mentioned -- many of the 650 workers already can see their future. General Motors' surprising rebound in the car market this year has opened up jobs in distant plants.

"Just about everyone who wanted to go somewhere has transferred,'' said Gregory Clark, the now-retired bargaining chairman of UAW Local 23.

Speece and about 300 co-workers are transferring or already have gone to GM plants in places that include suburban Detroit; Marion, Ind.; and Parma, Ohio, according to the United Auto Workers union's Region 3 office in Indianapolis.

Last week, GM idled about 140 workers, leaving about 150 in the plant for final tasks, such as packing machinery or preparing it for auction. Most of the remainder have retired.

"We're a big empty warehouse, pretty much," Speece said last week. "There's nothing running in here. I'd say GM has moved out 99 percent of the dyes."

Long before the skyscrapers and hotels rose Downtown, and the economy keyed up more than 100,000 office jobs, GM, Ford, Chrysler and International Harvester, the predecessor to Navistar, together employed as many as 12,000 workers.