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GM exec.: Fort Wayne plant to reopen with new safety protocols learned from medical device facility

General Motors’ employees report to their first day of work Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at the GM manufacturing facility in Kokomo. GM and Ventec Life Systems are partnering to produce critical care ventilators in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by AJ Mast for General Motors)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) -

A corporate executive tells Fort Wayne's NBC, the Allen County facility could put into effect safety measures from that rollout in the near future.

"Fort Wayne, for example -- they're on calls right now learning about what's going on in Kokomo and thinking about how that applies to their facility."

Jim Glynn, General Motors V.P. of Global Workplace Safety

In an interview on Thursday, GM Vice President of Global Workplace Safety Jim Glynn said the Kokomo project -- in a partnership with Ventec Life Systems -- is a pilot that could pave the way for other plant reopenings.

He said those inactive facilities were being brought along on the process.

"Fort Wayne, for example -- they're on calls right now learning about what's going on in Kokomo and thinking about how that applies to their facility," Glynn said. "We're doing this in real time in Kokomo and that will be the standard that we take around the world."

The Fort Wayne Assembly is idled -- like most North American auto plants -- because COVID-19 can spread easily among people working in close proximity.

About 4,000 people work at the Fort Wayne plant, which is one of GM's largest in the nation.

In Kokomo, extensive screening, cleaning and other CDC-recommended procedures will be in place.

"We want make sure every person that enters this place to do work, whether you're an engineer or a line worker, we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to keep you from any potential COVID germ," he said. 

"They're volunteering to come off layoff status to build these ventilators. They are committed, they're enthusiastic, they're passionate." 

The Kokomo production team is expected to include more than 1,000 workers once the project is at full production capacity.

GM hopes to achieve that top-out production level by mid-April, which would coincide with the expected peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report noted that the Fort Wayne Assembly could be tapped to also produce medical devices during the COVID-19 outbreak. A spokeswoman said the focus is on reopening the local plant for its regular production when it is safe to do so.

Jonathan Shelley

Jonathan Shelley is the news director at WPTA TV, which he joined in 2016 following nine years in a similar role in New Orleans and previous news management positions in Oklahoma City and Las Vegas.

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