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GM plans 300 jobs in Mich. plants

General Motors Corp. said Tuesday it will hire nearly 300 workers and invest $545-million in five Michigan plants, which is good news for the automaker's home state, but a fraction of the 30,000 jobs GM is shedding nationally by 2008 in a broad restructuring.

GM's home state has lost an estimated 130,000 auto manufacturing jobs in the past five years. As a whole, the company has let go more than 27,000 workers since 2000 as it faced mounting competition and rising costs for health care and pensions.

A big chunk of the investment - $163-million - will go to GM's Pontiac Assembly Center, which makes the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, GM spokesman Dan Flores said. Production of the next generation of those pickups is scheduled to begin this year.

GM plans to hire 280 people at the Pontiac plant, all workers who work at GM plants or have been laid off from their jobs. GM has several thousand laid-off workers in a jobs bank. They get most of their pay and benefits even when they're not working.

The company also disclosed other projects that have been started:

+ It is investing $152-million in its Ypsilanti transmission plant to increase production capacity for its rear-wheel-drive, six-speed transmissions.

+ It is investing $60-million in its Romulus engine plant for making the small-block V8 engines that will go into its new full-size trucks.

+ It is spending $32-million to update the hydroforming equipment in its Pontiac metal stamping plant, which uses water to help make the unique curves on the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky roadsters.

+ It is investing $138-million to expand the body shop in its Lansing Grand River assembly plant, a state-of-the-art facility that will make the new Cadillac CTS. The sedan will go into production late this year or early next year.

GM lost $8.6-billion last year as it struggled with falling U.S. sales and increased costs for health care and materials.

It has targeted 12 facilities for closure by 2008, including four locations in Michigan that employ 4,751 hourly and salaried workers. The closures must be negotiated with the United Auto Workers union, whose contract with GM expires in 2007.