Steve Finch, who guided General Motors' Town of Tonawanda engine plant for the past 11 years through times of industry turmoil and vital new investment, will retire Dec. 1.
The Buffalo native is wrapping up a 41-year career with GM. His successor is Ram Ramanujam, currently an assistant plant manager at a GM facility in Michigan.
GM has invested nearly $3 billion in the Tonawanda plant during Finch's tenure as plant manager, including $296 million announced last December for a new engine line.
The Tonawanda engine plant is one of the region's largest manufacturers, with about 1,620 employees. As a local native, Finch has said he was keenly aware of the plant's local economic impact. The facility had a 2016 payroll of $167 million.
Finch's career with the automaker began in 1976, when he was a General Motors Institute co-op student at the Chevrolet gear and axle plant in Buffalo. Finch then took a series of assignments at other GM facilities, spending 30 years away from Buffalo before he was announced as the new Tonawanda plant manager in late 2006.
During his tenure, the 59-year-old Finch has shared the spotlight with leaders of United Auto Workers Local 774, citing cooperation between union and management with helping the plant continue to secure new investment.
Along with celebrating the new engine lines that have kept the plant humming, Finch also oversaw the operations during a time of crisis for the auto industry during the Great Recession. The plant's workforce shrunk and GM went through bankruptcy, but the plant survived and rebounded with more hiring and investment.
At the start of his tenure, in early 2007, the plant had about 1,900 employees. During the recession, that figure sank to just 800 hourly and salaried employees, plus another 400 hourly workers on layoff, in June 2009. Now, as Finch prepares to retire, the headcount is back up to about 1,600.
Finch is known for his community involvement, through groups such as the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, the AAA of Western and Central New York, and the Buffalo Urban League. In 2014, the Buffalo Urban League presented him with its Whitney M. Young and William Evans Humanitarian Award, the group's highest honor.
Finch is also a trustee and deacon at Zion Dominion Global Ministries. He has been married to his wife, Lillian, for 40 years.
Ramanajum, who will succeed Finch, started his career with GM in 1989, as a tool engineer at an engine plant in Flint, Mich. In his most recent role, he was assistant plant manager at GM's Orion, Mich., assembly plant.