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Last SUV will roll off Janesville assembly line today

Photo courtesy Wisconsin Public Radio

The final SUVs are being made today at the General Motors plant in Janesville.

And when 1,250 employees walk out the door for the last time, it will trigger a whole new set of challenges not only for them but for everybody else in southern Wisconsin.

GM's local suppliers are also shutting down and that, plus other economic woes, has resulted in 6,000 layoffs between Janesville and the state's border with Iowa.

The GM shutdown was announced long before Washington approved emergency loans to keep the domestic auto industry humming. But Janesville's workers will be hurt by one part of that bailout.

It suspended a United Auto Workers' benefit in which union members could have gotten 85 percent of their wages for up to two years. Now, they'll have to scramble because they'll have a lot less time to train for something else and find new jobs.

In the last decade, Wisconsin has lost about a-quarter of its auto industry jobs. And anyone who pays an electric bill in south central Wisconsin could soon get hit for it.

Wisconsin Power and Light says it will seek an emergency rate increase next year, because the closings of its two largest customers will cut its revenues by 6 percent.

The second-largest plant to close in the utility's territory was the Domtar paper mill in Port Edwards.

There will still be a little work done at Janesville until next summer, as about 50 workers finish a light truck contract for Isuzu.