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GM Lordstown's future continues to look good



Published: Fri, June 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



General Motors Corp. executives who will be deciding the fate of the Lordstown assembly facility would do well to pay special attention to the following headline on the front page of last Saturday's Vindicator: "Budget includes GM-Lordstown incentives, Taft says."

And they should take note of a story on the front page of today's newspaper that details how productivity at the Lordstown assembly plant has improved.

Finally, the GM decision-makers should recognize the willingness of the workers at the Lordstown facility to go the extra mile to secure the future of automobile manufacturing in the Mahoning Valley. When 81 percent of the production workers and 74 percent of the skilled workers approve a three-year contract that clearly benefits the company, fairness demands acknowledgment by the upper echelon of the giant automaker.

Gov. Bob Taft's insistence that the two-year state budget include $25 million for economic development projects -- keeping GM in the Mahoning Valley tops the spending list -- reflects his unwavering support for this region's bid for a new product line.

Indeed, Taft had to fight off attempts by some legislators to slash the Ohio Department of Development's budget so deeply that the $25 million would have been lost. The importance of GM to the Valley seemed to be of little consequence to the lawmakers.

The governor has earned the appreciation of area residents, many of whom make their livings working for or supplying General Motors.

New models: The company has announced that it intends to discontinue its two compact car models, the hot-selling Chevrolet Cavalier and the Pontiac Sunfire, which are made in the Lordstown assembly facility. GM is still deciding what kind of small cars to build to replace the Cavalier and Sunfire, and once that decision is made it is expected to announce a $500 million investment in a plant to produce those new models.

From all indications, the Lordstown facility is the leading candidate for an overhaul -- and the incentive package presented to the company by the state of Ohio is said to be a major reason that GM isn't looking at other sites.

Taft administration officials are keeping the details of the package under wraps, contending that to reveal them would give some other state a chance to compete. While we are strong advocates of open government, we do believe there are times when some secrecy is justified. Considering what is at risk in this high-stakes game, we are willing to give the governor some leeway.

As for what's going on in the plant, we would point out that several years ago General Motors sent Herman Maass to Lordstown to manage the facility with this instruction: improve productivity and slash the per-car production cost. Maass, who established a strong bond between labor and management, not only succeeded in lower the cost of producing the Cavalier and Sunfire, but as today's news story notes, made Lordstown one of the better producing small-car plants in the country.




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