In Saturday’s edition of The Vindicator, there were two stories that are directly tied to the Mahoning Valley’s economic well-being.
The first, on the front page, was headlined “Forecast for GM Lordstown: Cloudy.”
The second, on page A3, had the following headline: “$8.5M firing range opens at air base.”
Regular readers of this newspaper’s editorials will not be surprised by our reaction to the General Motors story: We’ve long warned of storm clouds gathering over the 52-year-old Lords-town assembly complex.
The Associated Press reported last week that because of the lack of demand for cars – crossovers, SUVs and trucks are the rage – GM is reassessing its production goals.
“A possible scenario, analysts say, is to close its sprawling Lordstown plant because the hatchback version of the Chevy Cruze is already built in Mexico,” the wire service reported.
It is noteworthy that the Associated Press faced the same problem Vindicator reporters have confronted in their extensive reporting on this issue: Neither GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra nor any other high-ranking manager will provide any information about the future of the Lordstown plant.
Their silence ignores the fact that the lives of thousands of Mahoning Valley residents hang in a balance.
Barra’s inhumanity is shocking considering the loyalty this region has shown GM for half a century.
We would urge her to examine her conscience and to answer this simple question: Am I being fair to the people of the Valley by refusing to tell them what lies ahead?
YARS OFFERS STARK CONTRAST
By contrast, the future of the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna Township is looking bright because of a commitment by all groups to ensure the economic viability of the base.
On Friday, Democratic and Republican members of Congress stood shoulder to shoulder to cut the ribbon for the $8.5 million Combat Arms Training Management Firing Range at the reserve station.
While it was encouraging to hear about the federal government’s investment in the firing range, the significance of what it represents cannot be ignored.
U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, who has spent his 16 years in Congress fighting for the base, believes it’s more than just a military installation.
Ryan said the firing range exemplifies “the intellectual future of the military … tying the base to other important initiatives.”
One of the most important initiatives that has put the Mahoning Valley on the national and international map is America Makes.
America Makes is the nation’s leading collaborative partner in additive manufacturing and 3-D printing research, discovery, creation and innovation.
The Defense Department is an integral part of the Youngstown-based initiative.
“There is intellectual firepower in our community.” Ryan said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the range.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who also has shown an unwavering commitment to the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, had this observation about the major employer in the Valley:
“There is less likelihood of [YARS] being on the list of bases to be shut down. The future of the base is strong right now.”
Portman also made note of the fact that federal dollars are being sought for a new entrance gate to the facility. The existing gate is too close to the road and fails to meet anti-terrorism standards.
Portman and Ohio’s other U.S. senator, Democrat Sherrod Brown, along with Ryan and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, have joined forces in urging the Air Force to replace the current fleet of C-130H aircraft operated by the 910th Airlift Wing with the new C-130J aircraft. The 910th is the only unit that specializes in aerial-spray missions.
YARS has 1,500 military and civilian employees and generates more than $100 million in economic activity.
The need to ensure the viability of the base has never been greater than now, given the real possibility of GM shutting down its Lordstown plant.
The assembly complex, which produces the Chevrolet Cruze sedan, is down to one shift with a maximum of 1,500 workers.
With the future of the complex hanging in the balance, the Air Force base in Vienna Township must become the priority for political, business, labor and community leaders.
Continued investment of federal dollars in the installation will serve as a deterrent to possible closure or contraction.