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Look beyond GM assembly to new future

While we are pleased to see the work stoppage at General Motors approaching a conclusion, like most residents in the Mahoning Valley, we are saddened and disturbed that the contract also brings a finality to GM’s Lordstown complex.

Terms of the tentative four-year agreement reached last week between United Auto Workers and General Motors were spelled out Thursday in details that indicated the Lordstown assembly plant will close for sure.

Local union and other officials had held out some hope that labor bargainers could convince GM to assign a new vehicle production line to the massive facility that went idle here in March.

While the news hit hard, few likely were shocked that GM has no intentions of reopening the facility. In fact, it has been anticipated for several months, since the company halted production of the locally built Chevy Cruze and idled the plant that has provided jobs and stable retirements to so many workers in our Valley.

But as many dwell on what has been lost, we must try hard to move past that and focus on opportunities in our future.

Details posted to the UAW website contain no mention of GM’s offer to locate a battery cell production line in or near Lordstown — a proposal that leaked early in bargaining. GM in a recent statement reinforced its commitment to future investment and local jobs.

“Projects planned for the Mahoning Valley include the opportunity to bring battery cell production to the area, which would create approximately 1,000 manufacturing jobs, as well as the sale of the GM Lordstown Complex to Lordstown Motors Corp., a new company that plans to build electric pickups for commercial fleet customers,” a GM spokesman said.

Jobs are expected to be in the neighborhood of $17 per hour.

Certainly, we understand that is well below current UAW wages that reach $30 per hour.

But at the end of the day, the idea of 1,000 UAW-represented jobs at $17 per hour is so much better than if the automaker had walked away.

In fact, the opportunity to build battery cells for the up-and-coming electric vehicle market is no less than huge for our Valley and Ohio because it guarantees a local role in the bright future of this industry.

To be connected now to the future of electric automobiles is, in a word, wonderful.

Along with those 1,000 jobs, Lordstown Motors Corp. is anticipating hiring some 400 workers for an electric vehicle truck plant, expected to move into some of the now-vacant GM Lordstown facility. Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns said recently that he remains targeted on a production start date of late 2020 for the EV truck that’s been named Endurance.

That company has ties to Cincinnati-based Workhorse Group Inc., which was founded by Burns. Workhorse, on the short list of companies in the running for a multibillion dollar contract to provide electric delivery vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service, would hold a minority stake in Lordstown Motors.

Couple all that with the hundreds of projected jobs expected to come with the opening of the new HomeGoods regional distribution center, also under construction in Lordstown, and residents should remain hopeful on the future of our local area.

That $140 million to $170 million HomeGoods construction project is well underway and expected to bring about 1,000 new jobs to Lordstown with a payroll of about $27 million annually.

Yes, it is hard to see GM close the door on local vehicle assembly. But we must remain focused and positive on new growth and development in our future.

editorial@tribtoday.com