Portman looks toward future of GM Lordstown, Northside Hospital

By Justin Wier



Cincinnati-area Republican Sen. Rob Portman plans to meet with General Motors CEO Mary Barra in Washington in two weeks, where he said he will urge her to bring a more profitable line of vehicles to the Lordstown plant.

“I don’t feel like [General Motors] thinks this is a bad plant,” Portman said. “It’s a great plant ... great workforce.”

The plant reduced its operations to one shift in April amid slumping sales of the Chevrolet Cruze sedan it produces.

He said he does not believe GM has made a decision about the plant at this point, and it would be difficult to fill if GM decided to close it.

The senator also said he has been working to find a new use for Northside Regional Medical Center since Steward Health Care announced its closure.

U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, Bill Johnson of Marietta, R-6th, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, submitted a letter Wednesday to Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie urging him to find a use for the hospital.

“It’d be great if the VA would step in,” Portman said.

He said he does not think the VA is interested in taking on more infrastructure at this time, but part of the facility could be used as a clinic.

Portman added that the hospital could be used as a residential treatment center for those recovering from opioid abuse.

While Portman seemed optimistic about the trade deal with Mexico, he voiced some reservations about President Donald Trump’s approach to tariffs.

Europe, Mexico and Canada “are our friends,” he said. “We shouldn’t be raising tariffs on a national security basis.”

He said achieving fair-trade agreements is important, and he worked to impose tariffs on Chinese steel, but a trade war poses risks to Ohio farmers and manufacturers.

The president believes the U.S. is so powerful it will win trade wars, Portman said, but that’s a big risk to take.

“If Canada and the EU keep raising tariffs on our farmers, it’s going to hurt us more than it hurts them,” Portman said.

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