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Janesville moves on five years after GM plant shutdown

JANESVILLE, WI (WTAQ) - It was five years ago Monday when General Motors ended its production of SUV's in Janesville.  

1,200 people lost their jobs, plus another 1,800 at the plant's suppliers. Over the next year or so, the city of Janesville worked with state and business leaders on an incentive package to try and bring GM back.  

It didn't work -- and former City Manager Jay Winzenz tells WKOW-TV in Madison that local officials knew they had to move on. He said the overall impact of GM's departure was not as dramatic as many feared, because of efforts to diversify Janesville's economy over the previous two decades.  

Those left behind absorbed higher taxes -- something they could least afford as the worst of the Great Recession was about to hit.  

John Beckord of Forward Janesville said local unemployment reached 13 percent -- but now, it's down to around 7 to 8 percent. He said the health care sector has been an anchor in Janesville for years, and it's had a lot of growth since General Motors left, along with a variety of other businesses.  

Meanwhile, GM still maintains the Janesville plant. The automaker will own it through 2015 under the terms of the GM's collective bargaining agreement with the United Auto Workers union.  

Union leaders still lobby to return production to Janesville, with no indications that it might happen. 

(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)