The union president credited the employees with improving the GM plant's image and efficiency.
LIBERTY -- In addition to improving its product line and building more technologically advanced models over the years, the General Motors Lordstown plant has also spent that time successfully building and improving its image.
That was the message delivered by Jim Graham, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112 at the Lordstown assembly complex. Graham was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of the General Policy Board of the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments on Monday.
Graham said that he first ran for Local 1112's president in May 1997 because the plant was "not getting the recognition it deserved."
Over the years that changed, he said.
After corporate officials from GM's Michigan headquarters toured the Lordstown plant a few years ago, they saw positive and improved attitudes among workers, said Graham, who has worked at GM Lordstown for 33 years. Now, the Lordstown assembly plant has the highest level of production in the country, he said.
Last year, the plant produced about 230,000 vehicles and pumped roughly $700 million into the local economy, Graham noted.
Graham said there have been "two or three glowing reviews" in car magazines about the car the plant makes, the Chevrolet Cobalt. These reviews have caused public excitement and a high demand for the vehicle.
"It's our survival and the survival of this Valley, so we have to put out the best car possible," he said.
Graham credited employees for the Lordstown operation's success, which has been vital to the Mahoning Valley's economy, he said.
"This Valley would have been in serious trouble without their help," Graham said. "Lordstown should be an example to the rest of this Valley. We can make things happen if we use our heads."
Graham added that construction of a 560,000-square-foot paint shop is under way at the plant at a cost of $162 million so far. GM will invest about $1 billion into the Lordstown plant this year, he predicted.
Base support urged
In other business at the meeting, retired Air Force Gen. John Gjede urged support of Operation Save Our Airbase Reservists, a group dedicated to ensuring the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, home to the 910th Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve, stays off the Pentagon's base closings list. The air base has about 2,400 employees and generates between $90 million and $100 million for the local economy annually.
About 25 percent of the nation's military facilities may be closed this year as part of the Base Realignment and Closure act.
Also, John Getchey, Eastgate's executive director, gave updates on several projects for Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
He said construction of the Walton Street bridge in Struthers is under way. The span will connect Poland Avenue to industrial property.
A study of the U.S. Route 224 corridor between Poland and Canfield has begun, Getchey reported. It will be similar to an ongoing study of U.S. Route 422 near state Route 46 and the Eastwood Mall. Both look for ways to improve traffic flow, ease congestion and reduce the number of traffic accidents.
A Transportation Improvement Program, set for completion this spring, will include improvements to be designed or built over the next four years, he said.