A host of UAW, state, regional and General Motors officials turned out to celebrate the announcement that GM will invest $145 million at the Orion Assembly Center, to build Buick’s new future compact sedan – the all-new Verano.

The Verano, a slightly smaller car than the new Buick Regal, is the first entry of a small car for Buick in over 20 years.

GM North American President Mark Reuss, who started his career at the Orion facility working in the body shop, said the investment is an important step for the state, region and country.

“This is very important, especially when you look at the way America is beginning to buy cars that are little bit different than the way they did it in the past, cars that are fuel efficient, beautiful, a little smaller but just elegant and high quality as the bigger and more expensive cars have been in the past,” said Reuss. “Orion will be job one for this resurgence in this market in America.”

The announcement was made as part of a comprehensive investment package. The current retooling of the facility will retain 1,550 hourly and salaried jobs at Orion, along with 120 jobs at Pontiac Metal Center.  Orion will also build the next generation of Chevrolet’s new small car.

The total investment for that program is approximately $600 million, which includes the Verano. The improvements to the Orion plant are expected to be finished by summer 2011.

GM has worked closely with the United Auto Workers to create new and innovative contractual language that will allow this facility to be flexible and lean – essential elements in the highly competitive small car market segment.

“The UAW welcomes the news of an additional vehicle being allocated to the Orion Assembly Plant. Building small cars in the United States is very important to the UAW, Oakland County, and the state of Michigan,” said Joe Ashton, UAW vice president of the GM Department.

“Given the opportunity, our members can use their expertise and experience to build high-quality, affordable vehicles for American consumers. I would like to extend my congratulations to the members of UAW Locals 653 and 5960 for all their hard work to make this important project a successful one.”

Gov. Jennifer Granholm praised the Verano announcement, highlighting the partnerships between GM, UAW and public and community officials that worked to keep the Orion plant open.

“If we are going to manufacture in America we have to embrace public/ private partnerships,” said Granholm. “We have to have a manufacturing industrial policy in America that creates jobs here rather than somewhere else.  This is an example of reversing the trend — small cars, being built in America by American workers.”

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, also on hand for the event, said the county’s investment of $1.5 million for job training for the project represented the largest investment that the county has made in job training to date.

Over its more than 27-year history, the Orion plant team members have built more than four million cars for GM, while setting an industry record of ten million man hours of continuous operation without a work day lost to injury. The plant also was the first GM facility to receive the Clean Corporate Citizen designation by the State of Michigan.

No announcements have been made regarding the production or timing for the Verano and Chevrolet’s new small car.

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