Construction workers look on as the final steel beam is placed atop the frame of the new General Motors paint facility.

General Motors (GM) got one step closer Tuesday toward its goal of becoming completely carbon neutral by 2040 after workers celebrated the "topping off" of the Spring Hill GM Plant's new paint facility, setting the stage for the plant to become a major hub of electric vehicle production.

The phrase "topping off" refers to a construction ceremony in which workers celebrate the last beam being placed atop a structure, with its roots dating back to ancient Scandinavian culture. Early Tuesday morning, well over a hundred workers gathered around a massive steel structure to celebrate the final beam being put into place.

Resting on the ground at the base of the new paint facility, the last steel beam collected signatures from workers by the dozen. Atop of the steel beam was a small evergreen tree, which in regards to the topping off ceremony symbolizes that the project's frame was completed without the loss of life, while also serving as a good luck charm.


Workers sign their names onto the paint facility's final steel beam before its hoisted into place.

Beginning construction in January of this year, the new paint facility is expected to be fully operational by October of 2022.

Plant Director Jeff Lamarche called the completion of the paint facility's steel frame a "big milestone," and that coupled with the future GM battery plant and body shop, Spring Hill would become a major hub of electric vehicle production in the United States.

"This is one of those big milestones; the topping off of a building is one of those events you celebrate as you build a new project like this," Lamarche said.

"We're very excited about this because this now takes it to the next phase: from here, we'll start to enclose the building, equipment's starting to roll in [and] now we'll work towards the commissioning part of the project. We've got a ways to go yet before it's all said and done, but this is a big deal for us today."


The paint facility's final steel beam is lifted into place.

The Cadillac Lyric, GM's first all-electric SUV, is expected to begin production at the Spring Hill Plant in less than a year's time, with the new paint facility and battery plant being a major component in its production.

"As we get into the early part of 2022 we'll actually start building vehicles," Lamarche said. "Also, as GM announced the new joint venture with Ultium Cells building battery cells, that will begin breaking ground here very shortly, so this is going to become this hub of electric vehicle production here within Tennessee."