Come what may with GM’s plan for its Lordstown assembly plant, the Mahoning Valley can rest assured that newly installed Gov. Mike DeWine will be with us every step of the way.
Indeed, just four days into his tenure as Ohio’s chief executive, DeWine, along with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and other state officials, met in Detroit with General Motors Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra and her team to discuss what’s in store for the 52-year-old Lordstown car assembly complex.
Barra has announced the facility will be idled in March when production of the Chevrolet Cruze ends. The compact sedan was once the best-selling vehicle in the giant automaker’s fleet.
GM has not assigned another product to the Lordstown plant, and has designated it “unallocated.”
In a telephone conversation with The Vindicator’s Editorial Page editor after his meeting with Barra, the governor conceded he was unable to get a commitment from her to keep the Valley plant operating.
However, the CEO did pledge to work with the DeWine administration regardless of the decision that’s made.
DeWine said he told Barra that “my preference is that she keep Lordstown open with a new product.”
But if GM decides to abandon the Valley, the state will be actively involved in the search for a replacement.
“I believe this is a very viable plant,” DeWine said. “I’m hopeful ... if GM doesn’t have another product, we will get another company in there.”
While state officials and a delegation from the Mahoning Valley were in Detroit for the international auto show, the Detroit Free Press suggested that Lordstown and Detroit-Hamtramck would be closed. They are among four U.S. plants the company is idling. It is also mothballing one in Canada.
A total of 14,000 blue- and white-collar workers companywide are being affected by the contraction.
The Valley will lose more than 4,000 good-paying jobs if one of its most important employers for the past five decades leaves.
GM first began cutting back a year ago with the elimination of the third shift as sales of the Cruze declined.
With trucks, SUVs and crossovers all the rage and sedans not selling well, GM decided to eliminate the second shift last summer. The final shift will be gone in March.
We continue to believe the company owes the Lordstown plant another product because of the consistently high ratings for quality, cost efficiency and the trailblazing labor-management relations.
We applaud Gov. DeWine for delivering a clear message to Barra and her colleagues that he wants GM to remain in the Valley. We’re confident, given his comments after his meeting with GM, that the state will do whatever is necessary to persuade the company to keep its Lordstown plant open.
United Auto Workers Local 1112 at Lordstown and the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber have launched a “Drive It Home” campaign to make the case that the automaker’s 52-year relationship with this region must continue.
Dave Green, president of Local 1112, and James Dignan, chief executive officer and president of the chamber, were in Detroit, along with other Valley residents. They wanted GM to know that business and labor are of one mind.
But as we’ve noted in the past, Barra’s refusal to commit to the future of the plant, and the company’s decision not to assign another product to replace the Cruze are causes for concern.
We again urge business, labor and community leaders to prepare for the possible permanent closing of the complex.
DeWine is to be commended for pledging the state’s resources in the search for a new occupant or occupants at the massive facility.
JobsOhio, the state’s quasi-public economic development entity, would take the lead in the search.
JobsOhio was successful in bringing the Chinese auto glass company Fuyao to the closed GM assembly plant in Moraine near Dayton.
Unfortunately, it took several years before Fuyao became a reality. Fortunately, Gov. DeWine is aware that the Mahoning Valley does not have the luxury of time in finding a replacement for GM.