“The death that didn’t happen:” Janesville experiences growth following closing of GM plant

JANESVILLE, Wis (WMTV) - About ten years after the General Motors plant closed in Janesville, city leaders said the area has taken off, with several new stores set to open over the summer.

Gale Price, the city’s economic development director, said “it’s the death that didn’t happen.” He said Janesville’s unemployment rate soared to about 13 percent the year following the plant’s closure. This year, there is about a three percent unemployment rate.

"One of the challenges is people wanted to see where Janesville would be at economically after the closing of GM. We are ten years beyond that and people are seeing the growth,” he said.

Price said after the city’s largest employer shut its doors, the area built itself back up. Now, there are projects going on across several different sectors of the city, including a new 300,000 square foot warehouse or distribution center.

“Further South of that project is NaturPak, which is a pet food company. They are going to be starting operations here in Janesville,” he said.
With new development and growth comes the need for more housing in the area.

"We just finished approving a 260-unit apartment project on the East side of town,” he said.

Price said this is the first new complex approved in more than a decade. There is also growth in retail. An Ashley Furniture is setting up shop on Hwy 14 and a HomeGoods store, just off the interstate, will open Sunday.

"People are back in the work force, they've got jobs available, they are able to work and that has made a big difference here and been able to allow for this growth to move forward as we are post-GM," Price said.

He said the city’s focus is on re-developing downtown Janesville, where the Milwaukee St and pedestrian bridges are set to wrap up by next year.