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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s economy could take a serious economic hit if the strike by General Motors workers in Canada is prolonged, a University of Tennessee economist said Friday.

 Dr. Matt Murray said the 18-day strike by 2,700 GM workers in Dayton, Ohio, last March halted production at 26 of GM’s 29 North American assembly plants and prompted more than 177,000 layoffs.

 “Although a very short-term strike, it pulled an enormous amount of business and purchasing power out of the economy,” Dr. Matt Murray said. “I think we’re looking at potentially a far more serious strike in Canada that could have dramatic consequences for Tennessee.”

 The number of Canadian GM strikers rose to 28,510 this week.

 But published reports said GM, prior to the strike, began stockpiling in a Michigan warehouse Canadian-made parts normally destined for the Saturn assembly plant in Springhill, Tenn.

 That gives the Tennessee Saturn plant, which normally keeps on hand a five-day supply of parts, a two-week supply, the reports said.

 A long strike exhausting those supplies eventually would cause shutdowns and layoffs, Murray said.

 “If those workers at Saturn, if GM supplier plants around the region, are shut down, the ripple effects on other auto assembly plants and parts suppliers would be enormous,” Murray said.

 Contact: Matt Murray (423-974-5441)