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Support businesses breathe sigh of relief



Published: Thu, August 15, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



One local business owner said his store would never have survived without GM Lordstown.

By SHERRI L. SHAULIS

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL BUREAU

LORDSTOWN -- It's become one of the worst-kept secrets in the Mahoning Valley.

Though an official news conference wasn't set to take place until today, almost everyone who has the slightest association with the General Motors plant here is breathing a sigh of relief.

The automaker is expected to officially announce today the decision to invest more than $500 million to bring its new generation of small cars to the Lordstown Assembly Plant.

"I'm ecstatic," said Earl Ross Jr. of Lowellville, owner of Ross' Foods on state Route 45, just across the street from the plant.

"About 80 percent of my business, probably more if you consider the trickle-down effect, comes from that plant. Everybody's excited."

Ross' Foods, which doubles as a convenience store and restaurant, is open from 6 a.m. to midnight daily, and does a lot of business during the lunch and shift change times for the plant, the 26-year-old Ross said.

If the Lordstown plant had closed, it would have meant the demise of Ross' business.

"I would have to go out immediately," he said. "There's no way I could survive."

Rumors on whether the local assembly plant would get the new car have circulated for months, even when Ross decided earlier this year to buy the business from his father and the land it sits on.

"I rolled the dice on GM," Ross said. "I really took a chance, but it looks like it will pay off."

Others affected

Mike Ray and Mike Morrow, both of Youngstown and employees with Schindler Elevator in Youngstown, were also happy about the news, considering they spend at least two days of each work week maintaining the elevators and escalators at the Lordstown plant.

"If the plant had gone, we probably would have lost one of our guys," Ray said, noting that the company employs six workers.

Morrow said he hoped the expansion of the plant would mean even more work for the small company. Either way, he said, the new car would have an effect on his employment.

"A positive one, I hope," he said.

Grant Pfendler, terminal manager for Leaseway Auto Carriers, next to the GM Lordstown Assembly Plant, said he was happy about the news -- even if it wasn't yet official.

"I'll like it a lot better when I hear it at 10 a.m.," he said.

Leaseway, a trucking company, transports many of the Lordstown vehicles to outlets on the East Coast, as far west as Illinois and south to the Carolinas, Pfendler said.

Some vehicles are also transported to Windsor, Ontario, to another trucking company that delivers them to dealerships there, he added.

"We transport all day long, all over the place, six days a week," he said. The local outlet of Leaseway strictly services the Lordstown plant.

Pfendler said if the Lordstown plant were to close, it would likely take away most of the jobs of the 225 employees at Leaseway, the bulk of whom are truck drivers.

"We're always concerned" about GM Lordstown, he said. "They are one of our larger accounts."

slshaulis@vindy.com




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