Honeoye Falls, N.Y. -- For 18 years, Renee Owens has owned and operated Cosmos Restaurant and Tavern in the village of Honeoye Falls. For the past 13 years, her business has gotten an extra boost thanks to the General Motors Fuel Cell plant less than a mile away. Many of their employees walk to her restaurant during lunch or stop by for drinks after work.
That's why she was upset on Friday morning when she heard that the plant will close and relocate to Pontiac, Michigan by February 2013.
"My heart just sank," she says. "It's never good when a business leaves [Honeoye Falls]."
Friday morning, GM told the plant's 220 employees that it would close its doors when the lease is up in February. The company says a majority of those workers will have the option to move with the plant to Michigan. The rest will be offered transfers to other divisions within GM.
According to GM, the decision was made so that the fuel cell plant could be closer to GM's Powertrain Engineering Headquarters in Michigan.
"Really the foundation of this is that it does have some business advantages for us," says Kim Carpenter, a GM spokesperson. "It will really let us capitalize on all that technical expertise in one location."
During lunchtime, several GM employees could be seen walking around the village while running errands and grabbing a bite to eat. On Friday, no employees wanted to comment on the announcement.
Honeoye Falls Mayor Richard Milne says he got news about the relocation on Thursday. He says he is surprised by the announcement, but not shocked.
"Did we think that that Honeoye Falls was going to grow and GM would build their cars here? No. Not really," he says. “We’ve known for years that they would want this facility in the Detroit area and that makes sense from a business and strategy standpoint. It's not a total shock, but we would have thought that we would have had a few years to prepare for this loss."
Despite the loss, Milne remains optimistic.
"We were strong before GM got here and we will be strong after. It's just another direction we will have to go. The morale will probably be down a little bit but again, we will survive."
Meantime, Renee over at Cosmos says she will just have to open longer hours to try and make up for the business she will loose when the plant closes. She says things won't be the same without GM around.
"Everyone is going to feel the impact somewhat. The gas station. The grocery store. The Rite Aid. There is going to be an impact no matter what and it's not going to be positive. Anytime something leaves Honeoye Falls it does not help us at all."
The 220 GM jobs at the Honeoye Falls Plant are high-tech, high-paying jobs. GM says they decided to open up the GM plant in the village back in 1999 because of the large, highly-skilled workforce in the Rochester area.