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Automotive plans bring new excitement

It’s been about five years since I walked inside the sprawling Lordstown auto assembly plant that was, at that time, where General Motors workers built passenger vehicles.

I was the Tribune Chronicle business editor at that time, writing stories about production of the then-hot selling Chevy Cruze.

Last week, invited by new operators of Lordstown Motors Corp. who are preparing to build an all-electric pickup truck, I walked through again, this time with dozens of area political and business leaders. Thursday, the plant was cold, dark and eerily quiet. As one member of the executive team who was acting as our tour guide described it, sleeping robots sat silent along the assembly line, just waiting to awaken in coming months.

“We already are starting the equipment back up, getting it moving,” said Dan Tasiemski, Lordstown Motors Corp.’s Director of General Assembly. “It’s been off for a year. This equipment likes to run.”

Retooling the assembly area, part of the more than $100 million investment to upgrade, will begin by early April. Of course, the new manufacturer also is revamping the paint shop and stamping plant. Vehicle production is expected to begin in November.

In adjacent office space outside the production area, there was more buzz. About 80 visitors, media and LMC staff gathered in a large conference room to hear Lordstown Motors Corp.’s CEO Steve Burns discuss lofty goals as he clicked through a power-point showcasing the new electric pickup truck and explained why he believes the truck will be highly sought after for corporate truck fleets.

Excitement in the room became more palpable when Burns showed video, as he put it, of “proof of life” of the electric pickup truck circling a test track of hills, speed bumps and mud. It was Burns who was behind the wheel.

Ohio’s motto, Burns pointed out, is “With God all things are possible.”

“We think we are going to do the impossible here,” he said. “We are not going to just make a new vehicle here. We are going to change the whole region over to electric. It’s a tall order.”

Indeed, automobile manufacturing is changing in Lordstown.

But what won’t change is the quality of the Mahoning Valley workforce. Perhaps that was the most exciting part of Thursday’s visit to the plant.

The first electric pickup truck to be made here will be called the Endurance. It is named, Burns said, for the people of this region.

“They are just tough, gritty, hard-working people,” Burns said. “The vehicle is named for them. It’s going to be a tough, hard-working vehicle.”

Tasiemski said the company will begin hiring hourly workers around July.

The company intends to operate with about 500 workers per shift, and expects to hire up to that many to start off. They promise to utilize the local labor force for their hourly teams.

Half of the executive team also will come from the Lordstown GM facility, Tasiemski said.

Tasiemski, himself, hails originally from Michigan, but has spent time working all over the world for companies like Tesla and Boeing. When offered a role in development of LMC’s new electric vehicles, Tasiemski said he couldn’t help himself.

“I gave up a stable career at Boeing, and I came back here to work for LMC,” he said.

It’s likely that the Lordstown facility — described by Burns as a “gem of a plant” — played a part in his decision.

“This facility was made for one thing,” Burns said, noting that it has been refined for that use — building vehicles — through the years. “To do anything else (here) would be a crime. We really had a good stepping off point.”

“We are a little bit of David and Goliath, but we are coming with a very unique product like no other product in the world,” Burns said.

And once that product hits the road, each one will carry the name “Lordstown” on the tailgate.

Now, that’s pretty exciting, too.

Brenda Linert is the editor of the Vindicator.

blinert@tribtoday.com

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