GM: A tale of 3 cities — automaker's IPO means different things in N.Y., Washington and Detroit
"We are finally beginning to see some of these tough decisions that we made in the midst of crisis pay off," he said, apparently speaking not just of the GM bailout but of other bailout and stimulus measures adopted during the worst of the economic meltdown.
Obama pointed out that the stock offering had cut the government stake by nearly half, to 33 percent from 61 percent. For the taxpayers to break even on the $50 billion federal bailout of GM, the government needs to sell the rest of its shares at an average of about $53.
In downtown Detroit's main square, within sight of GM's 73-story headquarters, workers were putting the finishing touches on the city's Christmas tree and ice rink.
It may be a moment of pride for Detroit, but the city was hammered by the downfall of the U.S. auto industry in the late 2000s. Michigan's unemployment rate only recently fell beneath 13 percent, compared with a national rate under 10 percent.
"They've already been affected by the plant closings, the layoffs. It's been devastating," said Tim Jenkins, a mortgage banker who lives in the suburb of Grosse Pointe. He said he was too close to retirement to invest in GM stock, which he worried would be volatile for a while.
A half-dozen people watched the trading begin on a small TV in an upstairs, cafeteria-style dining room at Local 652 of the United Auto Workers union in Lansing, which represents workers at a factory for Cadillac, a GM brand.
"That's great news — the biggest IPO ever," said Mike Green, the local union president, whose family includes four generations of GM workers. "It's good to see her on the ticker tape again, isn't it?"
He said he already had an order in to buy GM stock.
And at GM headquarters in Detroit, several hundred workers cheered and welcomed Akerson at a catered party with a jazz band. It got going about the time the stock market closed — with GM finishing the day at $34.19, up $1.19 from the offering price.