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GM supplier adding shift, 114 jobs

By Marty Schladen

To keep up with General Motors Co.’s Allen County assembly plant, a major supplier is adding a third shift and 114 workers, its plant manager said Tuesday.

Advanced Assembly LLC of Columbia City started hiring workers this week and will have the entire third shift hired and working by the time the GM plant starts its third shift in mid-May, said Jerry LaMere, Advanced Assembly’s plant manager.

“They’re coming on in waves,” LaMere said.

Advanced Assembly is hiring 106 production workers and eight salaried employees. They will bring the company workforce to 365.

Production workers will start at $13.75 an hour. Those in the skilled trades will be paid $17.75, LaMere said.

Advanced Assembly makes full seat assemblies for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks built at GM’s Allen County plant on the tightest of schedules.

“We deliver 35 minutes’ worth of product at a time,” La Mere said, describing how Advanced Assembly loads 42 seat units on skids as they’re built. Then they are trucked to the GM plant and bolted into pickups.

As it went through bankruptcy last year, GM announced plans to close plants, including one in Pontiac, Mich., that made heavy-duty Sierras and Silverados.

GM also said last year it would invest $46 million in the Allen County plant to enable it to build heavy-duty pickups. It was part of a plan to consolidate production from the Pontiac plant into the Allen County plant and add a 700-employee third shift.

GM’s strategy was to lower fixed costs by operating some plants around the clock.

“It’s just like a restaurant deciding to serve breakfast in addition to lunch and dinner,” said Al Pugh, a professor of manufacturing and engineering technology at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. “They get a higher utilization of their equipment.”

Advanced Assembly’s hiring plan comes as good news to a Whitley County economy that saw unemployment rise to 12 percent in February from 11.9 percent in January and 11.7 percent in February 2009. Whitley County also has seen total employment fall from 18,004 in February 2009 to 17,104 a year later.

Indiana’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment was 10.7 percent in February. U.S. unemployment was 10.4 percent.

Source: The Journal Gazette