City officials, former GM workers excited about legacy center
Blackhawk Community Credit Union building center
JANESVILLE, Wis. — As plans to demolish the former General Motors plant in Janesville move forward, a local group is working to preserve the plant’s history.
Blackhawk Community Credit Union announced it plans to build a GM legacy center to commemorate the company’s history in Janesville and honor the thousands of workers who built their lives around the assembly plant.
“It’s done so much for our community, and there’s just a pride in knowing that all of these people have worked so hard and dedicated so much of their life to GM,” said Tammy McCaslin Krebs, Blackhawk Community Credit Union’s director of membership development.
She said the idea to start the legacy center came from the credit union’s CEO, Sherri Stumpf. Plans include displaying artifacts salvaged from inside the plant, an interactive timeline showing GM’s history in Janesville and time capsules to open in 100 years.
“She had the idea to provide the legacy center so that all the memories and the dreams and all of the hopes of our General Motors employees didn’t go away,” McCaslin Krebs said.
As the former General Motors plant in #Janesville is set to be demolished in April, Blackhawk Community Credit Union is planning to build a legacy center to commemorate @GM‘s history #news3 pic.twitter.com/sXztJh9lqa
— Jenna Middaugh (@JennaMiddaugh) March 7, 2018
The credit union has a special connection to GM. It was established in 1965 to provide financial services to the employees of Fisher Body, General Motors and the UAW.
“Today, the credit union serves thousands of retirees, those that still have a long-distance commute from Janesville to another plant and their families,” according to a news release.
Former GM worker Dan Krause said he’s looking forward to the legacy center.
“I think it’s fantastic because General Motors may have left Janesville, but it’s always going to be part of Janesville,” Krause said. “I will definitely visit it. You can take your children there, grandkids, whatever you might have at the time and explain to them what this really meant to the city.”
Krause spent more than three decades working at the assembly plant. At one time, his dad and two brothers worked at the plant as well. Krause was still working for GM when the company idled the plant in December 2008 and ceased production in April 2009.
“In its heyday, there were 7,100 people that worked there. When it closed, there was 1,200, and now it’s going to be demolished,” Krause said.
GM officials announced in December 2017 that St. Louis-based Commercial Development Company bought the 250-acre site. CDC officials said they plan to demolish the 4.8 million square foot facility starting in April.
“Our team is back and forth to Janesville, and the activity you see is primarily the asbestos abatement company,” said John Kowalik, CDC’s director of marketing and public relations.
Kowalik said CDC is looking for local help with the demolition. The company posted a job listing for six heavy equipment operators to “join its demolition and redevelopment efforts in Janesville, Wisconsin.” The posting said it is a 10-month temporary position with the possibility of longer-term reassignment.
“Successful candidates will possess a demonstrated proficiency in the operation of heavy equipment, including hydraulic excavators, dozers, track loaders, backhoes, torch cutters and similar equipment,” the job posting said.
People who are interested should send a resume and qualifications to COO Becky Lydon at firstname.lastname@example.org. The job is scheduled to start April 1.
In May 2016, Janesville City Manager Mark Freitag asked GM to donate $25 million to establish a legacy fund to boost local economy and help fund revitalization efforts in the city. GM corporate spokesperson Dan Flores said that’s not something the company does.
City officials said they were excited to hear that a local company is doing something to preserve GM’s history in Janesville.
“There’s a lot of generational ties to GM. So when we made the request for the legacy fund from GM, that was really the intent, was when GM walks away, there is some legacy here to honor that history,” said Maggie Darr, assistant to the Janesville city manager. “The city really is ready to work with Blackhawk Community Credit Union in any way that we can … to make this happen.”
The credit union said there’s no site picked out or timeline for the construction of the legacy center yet, but they want the community’s help creating it. Anyone with ideas or memorabilia to donate can contact the credit union at 608-755-6065.
The credit union says the GM legacy center will have artifacts salvaged from inside the plant, an interactive timeline showing GM’s history in #Janesville and time capsules to be opened in 100 years #news3 pic.twitter.com/gwIUZXpF9l
— Jenna Middaugh (@JennaMiddaugh) March 7, 2018
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