What was the purpose of President Donald J. Trump’s visit to the Mahoning Valley on Tuesday evening? From the reaction of the 7,000 or so true believers to Trump’s hour-long speech at the Covelli Centre, the event was a political victory lap.
But for the rest of the residents of the Mahoning Valley who were hoping for an address of substance from the president, the visit was no different from the three campaign appearances in the area during last year’s presidential race.
Indeed, from the moment the visit was announced by the Trump/Pence campaign, it was clear the president was counting on a friendly crowd in the Valley as an antidote to what he has described as the poisonous political environment in Washington.
He wasn’t disappointed.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have wasted no time in switching from election to re-election mode. The political rallies such as the one at the Covelli Centre are designed to keep their supporters engaged and build grassroots support for their agenda.
However, the chants of “Make America Great Again,” “Build That Wall,” “USA, USA”, along with the loud boos when Trump mentioned Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president last year, and former President Barack Obama were nothing more than feel-good political drama.
For the Mahoning Valley, which is facing challenging times because of the troubling developments at the General Motors Lordstown assembly complex and the uncertainty surrounding the Air Force Reserve base in Vienna, Trump’s appearance was of little consequence.
The speech the president gave could have been delivered at any rally around the country. There was nothing specific about his visit to Youngstown, other than a brief mention of seeing the abandoned factories and Mrs. Trump asking her husband, “What happened?”
The president said he told his wife, “Those jobs [that] have left Ohio, they’re coming back … the factories are coming back.”
And Trump then said to the crowd, “Don’t sell your house.”
But he never said how he intends to reopen the closed factories.
Indeed, he made no mention of the fact that the third shift at GM’s Lordstown complex has been eliminated and that the number of employees is now down to about 3,000.
More than 1,000 auto-related jobs were lost as a result of the third-shift elimination.
The president also did not acknowledge the fact that demand for the Chevrolet Cruze has decreased, resulting in an oversupply. Production has been halted intermittently for several weeks because car buyers are switching to SUVs and trucks.
Thus, rather than make a promise that cannot be kept, namely reopening the factories that have been closed for decades, we believe Trump should focus on the here and now.
Indeed, we would invite him to return to the Mahoning Valley on Sept. 19 so he can join the region in commemorating the shutdown of the Youngstown Sheet & Tube’s Campbell Works and the subsequent end of major steel production in this once manufacturing center.
It has taken 40 years for some people in the Valley to finally admit that big steel isn’t coming back, which is why comments like those made by the president are counterproductive.
As we’ve pointed out previously, Vallourec Star is a shining example of the new manufacturing paradigm. The France-based company spent more than $1 billion on a state-of-the-art, high technology steel pipe-making complex. Vallourec Star serves the oil and gas industry.
It is noteworthy that the two plants are not as labor intensive as the steel mills of the bygone era. The number of workers at the complex has hovered around 500.
Rather than talking about resurrecting the old factories, Trump should assign a White House official to explore an expansion of the America Makes additive manufacturing initiative in downtown Youngstown.
While Trump’s campaign speech had the desired effect of re-energizing his base in this region, as president, he has a responsibility to tell the truth about the economic future of old industrial areas like the Mahoning Valley.