LA Labor Dept. gets federal grant to help laid-off GM employees

BATON ROUGE, LA (KSLA) - The U.S. Labor Department has given a $1 million grant to the Louisiana Workforce Commission to help workers recently laid off from Shreveport's General Motors plant.

Hundreds of workers at the plant, along with employees of GM suppliers, were laid off when the automaker shut down it's second shift. The plant makes the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups, the Hummer H3 SUV and Hummer H3T truck. This segment has seen a drop in sales due to the economy and gas prices.

"This federal assistance is very important in helping the hundreds of workers who have been laid off in Northwest Louisiana, but we still have much more work to do to foster the future growth of the automotive industry in our state," said Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. "I have been to Detroit and met with the president of GM, and we know that there is currently a nationwide shift in market conditions taking place that is driving consumers to choose more fuel-efficient vehicles. This means that we must position our state and our workers to meet the demands of this changing market and attract future investments in projects and facilities that will create more fuel-efficient automobiles. We are also continuing to work with GM to discuss the possibility of the company converting their operations here toward making other types of vehicles that would put our workers back to work.

"I recently sent a letter to Congress to request that they provide low-interest loans to automobile manufacturers in order to facilitate increased investment in alternative fuel technology, which we will encourage to grow right here in Louisiana. Just this week, we broke ground on a renewable fuel facility in Geismar that will create dozens of high-paying jobs. With increased research and investment into alternative sources of energy, along with continued support for our oil and gas industry, we can make Louisiana the energy capital of the world."

Through the $1 million U.S. Department of Labor grant, all workers affected by recent automobile industry layoffs will have access to the full array of federal dislocated workers services. Trade-eligible dislocated workers will have access to skill assessment services, counseling, case management, job search services, job placement, and follow-up services.

In August, Governor Jindal traveled to Detroit to meet with the president of General Motors North America to discuss the state's continuing support for GM's Shreveport facility and to reinforce that Louisiana will do whatever it can to support the Shreveport facility in adapting to changing market conditions, which may drive the company to convert their equipment and facilities toward producing more fuel efficient vehicles.

Governor Jindal also went to Congress to ask for increased support of the automobile industry in Louisiana. In late September, the Governor sent a letter to leaders of Congress, requesting their support for the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Initiative, which would provide low-interest loans to automobile manufacturers and suppliers for the specific purpose of fostering research and development for advanced technology vehicles (including those using fuel cell technology, plug-in hybrids, extended range electric cars, and other advanced hybrid vehicles).

The Governor said in the letter that, "these loans will be utilized by U.S. automakers in the purchase of new equipment for existing manufacturing facilities as well as engineering activities associated with designing these vehicles of the future. Given the current state of the economy, it has become increasingly difficult for the automobile industry to secure critical funding for their research and development activities, which is necessary in order to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles.  The allocation of funds to support this initiative would go far in helping this vital American industry reach its full potential while also helping to reduce the carbon footprint of both the manufacturing facility and the final product itself."