WENTZVILLE, Mo. (AP) - Construction is beginning on a $380 million expansion of the General Motors plant near St. Louis, a move that Missouri's governor said Monday was indicative of the rebirth of the nation's auto industry.
GM officials joined Gov. Jay Nixon and other politicians in Wentzville for a groundbreaking ceremony at the assembly plant. GM plans to start making Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup trucks in Wentzville, creating 1,260 new jobs. The company already makes Chevrolet Express and GMC Savana full-size vans in Wentzville.
The expansion was announced in November. GM is eligible for state incentives for up to a decade, the amount depending on reaching certain levels of investment and employment.
"Today's groundbreaking of GM's major new expansion is the latest step in the rebirth of the auto manufacturing industry in America, and Missouri continues to lead the way," Nixon said.
The Wentzville plant currently has about 1,400 employees, with the average autoworker earning $28 per hour.
The upgrade in Wentzville is one of two auto plant expansions under way in Missouri. Last fall, Ford announced it was adding 1,600 jobs to build transit vans at its Claycomo plant in Kansas City.
In Wentzville, GM plans to add 500,000 square feet of space.
The announcement represents a big turnaround for GM in Wentzville. Just two years ago, the company was fighting through bankruptcy and shut down a second shift at the plant.
Missouri once ranked just behind Michigan in the number of autoworkers and plants. Just a decade ago, the St. Louis area was home to four - the GM plant in Wentzville, a Ford plant in Hazelwood that made the Explorer sport utility vehicle, and two Chrysler plants in Fenton that made minivans and pickup trucks.
But Ford closed the Hazelwood plant in 2006 and Daimler Chrysler shut down its Fenton plants in 2008 and 2009, leaving thousands of autoworkers without jobs, along with thousands of employees of supplier businesses.
GM has said the next generation Colorado should appeal to U.S. buyers because of its design, capabilities and fuel efficiency.
The company hasn't said when the new generation truck will go on sale in the U.S. or how much it will cost.