There is a reason Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike De-Wine, made mention of the idled GM Lordstown assembly plant in a letter urging the federal government to designate Camp James A. Garfield, formerly Camp Ravenna, a Continental United States Interceptor Site.
DeWine is well aware that Democrats have wrapped the now silent 53-year-old car assembly complex around Republican President Donald Trump’s neck – and will continue to point the finger of blame at him through the 2020 presidential election.
Trump is seeking a second four-year term, and has left no doubt he aims to replicate his 2016 victory in Ohio.
But the loss of more than 4,000 auto jobs in the Valley could hurt Trump with blue-collar Democratic voters who supported him because of his pledge to “Make America Great Again.”
Trump came to the Valley just months after he was sworn in and promised to reopen the huge steel mills that once dotted the banks of the Mahoning River and to increase the number of auto manufacturing jobs by forcing American companies to close plants abroad.
He has not kept those promises, which is why the governor, who has been in office since January, is making a pitch for the missile defense system at Camp Garfield.
The 21,000-acre military installation, which played a major role in World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars, straddles the border of Trumbull and Portage counties. It is home to the Ohio Army National Guard. There are more than 100 employees and 1,800 reservists who train there.
“The economic impact can be immense for a region that was devastated by the closure of the Lordstown auto plant,” the governor wrote in the letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan. “We in Ohio want to work, to contribute, and to lend value to our National Defense. I can think of no better way to accomplish those goals than selection of Camp Garfield as the east coast missile interceptor site.”
Earlier this year, the Missile Defense Review acknowledged the need for such a system and suggested Camp Garfield.
The project could have an economic impact of $3 billion to $4 billion, with an estimated 2,300 or so construction jobs and 850 full-time staff positions. There also would be many indirect jobs.
In making the case for Ohio, the governor listed the following advantages:
A strong transportation system, including highways, ports and rail, as well as a transportation corridor established for support of NASA Plum Brook.
Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna Township, which is critically positioned to provide immediate and concentrated support in and out of Camp Garfield.
Ohio National Guard, which possesses one of the most experienced force of air defenders in the nation. The guard is regularly entrusted with protection of the National Capitol region.
Powerful aeronautical research at the NASA John H. Glenn Research Center and surrounding universities and the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Northeast Ohio’s workforce that’s eager and well-positioned to fill the 2,000-plus jobs.
DeWine’s pitch to Acting Defense Secretary Shanahan bolsters the argument made by all members of Ohio’s congressional delegation that Camp Garfield is by far the best location for the system.
Currently, the U.S. has only two missile-defense sites with long-range interceptor missiles active, one each in Alaska and California.
The system under consideration by the Defense Department is designed to launch ground-based defense missiles to protect the eastern United States in the event the country is attacked.
There are two other installations competing with Camp Garfield: Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan; Fort Drum Army Military Reservation in New York state.
Using any objective measure, the installation in Ravenna is by far the best location for the missile defense system. But it should come as no surprise that decisions made in Washington are also based on politics, which is why the involvement of Ohio’s Republican governor is significant.
Trump endorsed the former state attorney general in his gubernatorial bid and even visited Ohio just before last November’s general election.
The president has publicly taken credit for DeWine’s victory over Democrat Richard Cordray.
While residents of the Mahoning Valley expect Washington and Columbus to keep the pressure on General Motors to assign a new product to the Lords-town assembly complex to replace the Chevrolet Cruze, the missile defense system would provide an important boost to this region’s economy.