After 68 years of being in operation and three different owners — the most recent being GM — Willow Run Assembly will be shutting its doors for the foreseeable future.
Though The General owned the plant from 1953 until its bankruptcy filing in 2009, all of the cool stuff that made the building truly historical happened just before GM acquired the title deed to the 5 million square-foot facility.
During World War II, this very plant — which at the time was owned by Henry Ford — built B-24 Liberator bombers that were used to raise up all sorts of hell against the Axis powers. Then in 1945, Kaiser-Fraser Corp. purchased the plant from Ford to manufacture cars and farm equipment. GM then acquired the plant from Kaiser-Fraser eight years later. By 1980, Michigan Governor William Milliken officially declared Willow Run Assembly a history site. Today, just 300 employees build transmissions in the massive facility, which is currently managed by Motors Liquidation (a.k.a. “Old GM”), and face transfer, retirement or a layoff — according to GM spokesperson Chris Lee.
If new owners are not found by the end of 2010 — which is literally just days away — the plant will default to a trust. Considering all of the other massive and empty plants dotting the Southeast Michigan region, finding a new owner for the old building seems difficult, if not impossible. But hey, at least this particular plant has history on its side.