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Thanks again, GM, and thanks to many others



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



Yesterday's page one headline read Thanks, GM, and rightfully so.

The Mahoning Valley heaved a collective sigh of relief when it was unofficially announced that the Lordstown plant would be renovated and retooled to produce the next generation of GM small cars.

But the thanks should extend far beyond General Motors.

Many of those who earned the thanks of the Valley were scheduled to be at the plant today for the formal announcement of the Lordstown plant's good fortune. But many, many more won't be there.

At its heart, this was a victory for management and union alike, which shared a commitment to persuade Detroit that Lordstown was a good place to make great cars. In addition to the union officials and plant managers in charge now, credit must be given to Herman Maass, the former plant manager, and the late Al Alli, former shop chairman of Local 1112 of the United Auto Workers.

They realized years ago that if Lordstown had any chance of winning a new product, it had to significantly reduce the per unit cost of its cars. GM is no longer willing to sell its small cars at a loss in order to establish brand loyalty among young buyers. It wants to make a profit on every car.

The union and management made enormous progress toward that goal, and the concrete recognition of that progress will come when contractors begin tearing out the old and installing the new at the plant.

Union members approved shelf agreements that gave General Motors an incentive to bring its new product to Youngstown. They should be thanked.

Beyond the call of duty

And while politicians are paid to do a job, it still doesn't hurt to say thanks when they do an exemplary job.

Beginning with his first State of the State address, Gov. Bob Taft announced that bringing a new automotive product to the Lordstown General Motors plant was his highest economic development priority. No other area in the state received that level of commitment.

And Taft made good on his pledge, keeping in contact with GM and with Ohio economic development personnel in Columbus and in the Mahoning Valley. He oversaw development of an economic incentive package that will total about $95 million over seven years.

Taft's predecessor, George Voinovich, also deserves credit for his efforts as governor to open a turnpike interchange that serves the plant. As a U.S. senator, he has maintained contact with GM officials over the years.

There are hundreds of others who deserve specific credit, far too many to name. But mention must be made of the Youngstown/Warren Area Chamber and all the businesses, labor unions, public officials and residents who became active in the Bring It Home campaign. By the hundreds, they sent a clear message to General Motors.

If there has been one constant in the Mahoning Valley since that campaign was launched, it has been a desire to bring a new product to the Lordstown plant and a willingness to work toward that goal.

Today that work is paying dividends for every resident of the Mahoning Valley, and each owes a sincere thank you to anyone who made this success possible.




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