TONAWANDA, NY — General Motors will invest $6.7 million in its engine plant here to upgrade production systems. Some $4.4 million of the total will go toward capital investment, while the remaining $2.3 million will go toward project expenses, to improve efficiencies in making 5.3-liter V8 engines used in full-size trucks.

“This is to provide additional flexibility to retool some of our lines,” says Ram Ramanujam, the plant director. “We have multiple machining lines that feed the assembly line and we have not retooled all of them. Now we're going to go ahead and retool one additional line, which provides us a little bit more flexibility to build those [engine] models.”

The plant expects to benefit from the improvements during the current quarter. The GM Tonawanda plant has 1,454 employees and plant management believes the new investment will support job retention.

“This is a win for our team, our newly hired full-time employees and our communities,” says Jose Gonzalez, acting chairman of United Auto Workers Local 774. “We are proud of the work we do.”

Terry Dittes, a UAW vice president, hailed the new investment as a product of last fall's new contract.

“UAW members during the 40-day strike last fall received significant economic commitments to many plants,” Dittes states. “Under the direction of [UAW] Region 9 director Jeff Binz, the $6.7 million investment at GM’s Tonawanda Plant will continue UAW members’ quality work on the 5.3L V8 engines they provide.”

GM's investment announcement comes as the Tonawanda plant converts 31 temporary workers to full-time, permanent status, which provides them with better pay, benefits and job security. Temporary workers' status was a key issue in the UAW's new contract with GM, which workers ratified after a 40-day strike.

“We're setting the plant up for the future. We're showcasing we're competitive. We have to get competitive on cost, there's no doubt about it; New York's a little challenging that way,” says Ramanujam. “Once we do that, we're hopeful for the future.”