By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LORDSTOWN — This town is back at “ground zero” in the plans of General Motors and poised to make a huge comeback.
That was the sentiment expressed by several elected officials Tuesday at the announcement that a third shift will be added at GM’s Lordstown plant.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, referring to a comment by GM North America President Mark Reuss that the plant is “ground zero for [GM] and this country,” said the statement is a “message to the world that the men and the women who built the steel and the autos and sent them all over the world for decades — we’re back.”
Ryan said the $350 million investment GM is making here to begin producing the Chevrolet Cruze this fall shows that GM thinks local workers can compete on the world stage, in spite of the challenges faced by the American car industry.
“We were ground zero for the elimination of the steel industry. We were ground zero — almost — for the collapse of the auto industry, and it’s only fitting that this community is ground zero for the greatest economic comeback in the history of the United States,” Ryan said.
Gov. Ted Strickland added that this region of Ohio “has endured a lot in recent months and years” but workers here take pride in “manufacturing great products for the world.”
He noted that the success of the Cruze car, which the plant here will build, will have a “ripple effect” on other parts of Ohio because parts will come from plants in Toledo and Defiance.
Lordstown Mayor Michael Chaffee mentioned that when he and officials from other General Motors communities went to Washington in 2008 to ask the government to help General Motors survive, they were met with a lot of “doubters” who said the American auto industry was “not worth saving.”
“Maybe we should invite the doubters to Lordstown for the launch of the Cruze this summer,” he said. “I can guarantee that they’d get here in a quality GM car. I can guarantee it will stop when whey they hit the brake when they get here,” he said, drawing loud applause.
After the speeches were through, Warren Mayor Michael O’Brien and Chaffee said the impact of 1,200 additional employees at the plant will be huge: close to $1 million in income taxes spread through communities such as theirs, plus additional spending by the workers and their families.
O’Brien said the additional income taxes will allow his administration to examine the possibility of bringing back police officers or other workers. The city laid off 40 workers Jan. 1, 2009, to balance the budget.
Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams said the additional work at GM, coupled with the $650 investment V&M Star Steel announced last week, should produce benefits for years to come.
Janet Jordan of Warren, eating lunch at the Hot Dog Shoppe in Warren on Tuesday afternoon with her grandson, said the additional 1,200 GM jobs “make people feel it’s possible for this area to come back.”
She said it’s discouraging that so many of her friends and relatives have left Warren because of the lack of jobs.
“It’s good for everybody to have more jobs,” said Debbie Roose of Niles, who drives to Akron to work. “Hopefully people can get back to work, and everyone won’t keep losing their houses.”
Lordstown worker Dale Snyder of Canfield, who has worked at the plant for 41 of its 44 years, said he and his co-workers “have always built a good car,” but he thinks the enthusiasm that is being generated by the new hiring will encourage workers to make their products successful.