By BURTON SPEAKMAN AND JAMISON COCKLIN
Workers at the General Motors Co. Lordstown plant have job security into the next decade after GM and two local United Auto Workers unions announced a $200 million investment in the Valley factory.
GM is investing in tooling and equipment to build the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze, retaining 5,000 jobs between the company’s Lordstown and Parma plants. An additional $20 million will be invested in Parma.
GM already has begun to retool the Lordstown factory.
“It’s a great day at Lordstown,” UAW Local 1112 President Glenn Johnson told those at a news conference at the union hall.
“As leaders, we secured the future of this plant for a very long time.”
The expectation is that this agreement will keep the
Lordstown GM complex operating until 2020, said Dave Green, president of UAW 1714.
In the last contract, union members made individual concessions of “$7,000 to $30,000 to make today possible,” he said.
“The majority of the money at Lordstown will go toward facility rearrangement, equipment, machinery and tooling,” GM Manufacturing Manager Arvin Jones told reporters during a conference call Thursday.
Jones said the new model will offer new exterior and interior styling, improved fuel economy and more storage space.
However, the company was short on specifics, deferring most questions to a later date. Production timing of the next-generation Cruze and model variations will be announced later, Jones said.
The current Cruze model was originally scheduled for production by GM through 2014.
“We can’t yet predict what kind of volume the Lordstown facility will do because we just don’t know what the markets will do,” Jones said. “We really don’t want to get into all of that right now.”
Laura Jones, spokeswoman for JobsOhio, said her group was pleased with the announcement, and details had yet to be worked out about possible incentives for GM for building the next-generation Cruze in Lordstown.
“We’re committing to working with GM, and GM is committed to Ohio,” Laura Jones said.
The company did have the option of moving production of the new Cruze to its Springfield, Tenn., facility, she said. GM’s investment saved 4,500 jobs in Lordstown, which equates to $243 million in payroll.
According to Reuters news service, the next-generation Cruze will be the first to use a new global platform for about 2.5 million GM compact sedans and crossovers. The company and union officials did not confirm the platform announcement, however.
GM previously announced plans to reduce the number of vehicle platforms by more than 50 percent in the next decade.
When asked if the Lordstown plant would start to produce any other models or styles of Cruze — such as a hatch-back or station wagon — Green said his hope is the company diversifies the Cruze product.
“We think they will, but we don’t know that 100 percent at this time,” he said.
The new Cruze is a great development for the Valley, Johnson said.
It will provide long-term security not just for workers at the plant, but also for all the companies that make a living supplying the plant or whose industry is supported by the income of plant workers, Green said.
“It took the work of everyone from the floor down to make this happen,” Green said.
A joint statement released by GM, UAW Local 1112 Shop Chairman Ben Strickland and UAW Local 1714 Shop Chairman Will Adams credited the Lordstown Team: “The men and women of Lordstown are working hard to keep the Cruze a top-quality small-car choice. The next-generation of the Cruze is well earned and we are thrilled to be assigned work that will keep good-paying next generation UAW jobs in the state of Ohio for years to come.”
This announcement shows the young people in this area they don’t have to go somewhere else to find a job, said state Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th.
“I remember being here in ‘78-79 when the steel industry collapsed. There are reasons that Youngstown was recently named the fourth-best place in the nation to find a job,” he said. “[In addition to GM] there is opportunity at V&M Star, there is opportunity at [the Youngstown Business Incubator] with the federal grant that was just announced.”
Retirees Peggy Campbell and Carol Bowers came to the event as a way to support union members.
The new Cruze provides not just security for the current workers but also secures the future of the retirees who came before them, Campbell said.
The Lordstown complex has built more than 14.6 million cars in the 46 years since it opened in April 1966.
The Parma Metal Center shipped 60 million parts while processing more than 1,000 tons of steel in 2011, GM said in a statement.