Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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In 1973, when General Motors Corporation announced plans to build a major assembly plant in Oklahoma City, the enterprise was heralded as a major boon to the state's economy. Construction of the three- million-square-foot facility, located on a 436-acre site near Tinker Air Force Base, began the following year but was soon stopped due to an unforeseen economic downturn. Work resumed in 1977, and the plant was completed at the end of 1978. The first automobiles produced, the Chevrolet Citation and the Pontiac Phoenix, came off the assembly line in April 1979. Between 1979 and 2000 the plant produced more than five million passenger cars of various makes and models. The facility surpassed its positive economic forecast by employing more than five thousand workers at its peak and pumping millions of dollars into the local economy. In 2001 the plant temporarily closed to undergo a major revamping that converted it from passenger car to sport utility vehicle (SUV) production, which began the following year. Then in May 2003 the GM plant suffered tremendous damage when it was struck by a force-five tornado, but with assistance from state and local officials it was able to resume production in only seven weeks. By that time, however, a variety of factors, including the rising price of gasoline and poor management decisions by General Motors officials, pushed SUV sales into a sharp decline. Production was severely curtailed. The General Motors Corporation was verging on bankruptcy, and on November 21, 2005, it announced the layoff of thirty thousand workers. The Oklahoma City assembly plant was one of nine North American facilities to be closed, with its closing scheduled for early 2006.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 10 August 1973, 6 and 12 January 1974, 1 April 1977, 22 April 1979, and 21 and 22 November 2005.

Bobby Weaver

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