Ohio officials leave meeting with GM CEO with more questions than answers about Lordstown

Congressional delegation pushes to have electric vehicle in idled complex

By David Skolnick



U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, who were among members of the Ohio congressional delegation who met Wednesday with General Motors CEO Mary Barra, said they left with more questions than answers.

Also, both said they pushed Barra to have GM put a new electric vehicle in the idled Lords-town Assembly Complex to no avail.

When asked why GM isn’t interested in Lordstown, Ryan of Howland, D-13th, said Barra told the delegation the auto company doesn’t “need it. We have too much capacity [and] need to get other facilities running at full capacity.”

Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, said Barra told the delegation: “I don’t want to create false hope” about Lordstown reopening.

“We want to see General Motors in this plant,” Brown said. “We want an electric vehicle. They’re making 20 electric vehicles [by] 2023. That’s their plans. She wouldn’t commit to me when I asked her” to put an electric sedan at the Lords-town facility.

“We know General Motors can fill this plant or mostly fill this plant with thousands of jobs with an electric vehicle,” he said.

Ryan said Barra “was not optimistic about anything from General Motors going in there.”

He added: “There’s not a lot of hopefulness coming from General Motors on Lords-town. People in the community are going through a lot. It’s a shame they got tax cuts and all the benefits and we get screwed.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Cincinnati-area Republican who was at Wednesday’s meeting, said it “was part of our ongoing effort to push GM to do the right thing for [Lordstown]. We continue to have questions about GM’s decision to close the plant instead of bringing production of one of its 20 new electric vehicles there.”

GM announced in November 2018 it planned to idle five of its North American plants, including Lords-town. GM ended production of the Chevrolet Cruze at the 53-year-old Lordstown plant in March, eliminating about 1,600 jobs left at a location that once employed more than 10,000.

As recently as January 2017, there were about 4,500 workers there. GM eliminated the third shift that month and the second shift in June 2018.

President Donald Trump broke the news May 8 that GM was in negotiations with Workhorse Group Inc. and an affiliated, newly formed entity to sell the Lordstown facility for the production of electric vehicles there.

Brown and Ryan said Barra talked Wednesday about Workhorse.

GM has “confidence in Workhorse and their technology and the capital they need,” Ryan said. Workhorse hasn’t provided details of the new company it’s created that would be involved in acquiring the Lordstown plant.

“We will help Workhorse as best as we can,” Ryan said. “I don’t know enough about them. There’s questions. There’s a lot up in the air. They’re going to the capital markets, trying to get money and we’re trying to help. ...”

Brown said Workhorse is “going to hire 400 people” over the next three years, which is only 10 percent of the workforce there about 21/2 years ago.

Barra told the delegation that about a dozen companies expressed interest in the Lordstown facility and Workhorse had the best proposal, Brown said.

When asked about the meeting, Jeannine Ginivan, a GM spokeswoman, wrote in an email to The Vindicator: “As these were private meetings we do not have a comment on the specifics that were discussed other than to say Mary provided an in-person update, as promised to members of Congress. To date, more than 1,400 employees from GM’s unallocated plants have already accepted transfers. We are offering jobs to all 2,800 manufacturing employees impacted by our decision last year.”

Brown said that GM talks about “taking care” of the people who lost their jobs at Lordstown in the past few months, but not about the 3,000 or so workers laid off when the second and third shifts ended.

Also, he said, “They just don’t seem to understand the hardship it is on the families to leave Niles or Girard or Warren or Youngstown or Austintown and move to Indiana or Michigan or even to Arlington, Texas.”

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