The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 29, 2013

Trying to save part of Rosie the Riveter's factory

(Continued)

The Willow Run factory went back to making automobiles after the war ended, and it did so for more than a half-century under the General Motors name before closing for good in 2010.

Now, Doe and other donors are hoping to save at least some of the massive structure to convert it into the new home of the Yankee Air Museum. The museum's original headquarters burned down in 2004, and it is currently housed at Willow Run Airport in Van Buren Township, which is near Ypsilanti Township, where the plant is located.

"We now have the opportunity to actually take a piece of this plant. It's due to be demolished over the next two or three years," said Dennis Norton, president of the Michigan Aerospace Foundation. "There's no further use for it. It's too big. It's too old to be used in modern-day manufacturing."

Organizers of the "Save the Willow Run Bomber Plant" campaign say they need $8 million to fund their "separation" plan. They want to acquire part of the 5 million-square-foot plant, secure it and re-establish utility services such as water, gas and electric.

They have raised $4.5 million of what they need and are hoping to entice major donors to come forward with six- and seven-figure commitments.

Detroit's historic bankruptcy filing two weeks ago isn't expected to have any effect on fundraising, said Dan Pierce, a spokesman for the effort.

"We have not heard this from any prospective donors and don't think we will," he said.

Yankee Air Museum backers are hoping to tap into some of that patented Rosie resolve in their efforts to transform Willow Run.

The hulking facility currently is in the hands of the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust, which took over sites around the country left behind in the bankruptcy of GM.

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