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This time, focus on Valley was all about winning

All eyes were on Lordstown last week. Lordstown Motors Corp., that is, as Vice President Mike Pence traveled here during Thursday’s unveiling of the Valley’s newest locally manufactured vehicle, the Endurance, an all-electric pickup truck set to be built in the former General Motors assembly plant shuttered little more than a year ago.

GM’s decision at that time to halt production of the Chevrolet Cruze and close its massive assembly and stamping plant here brought the nation’s attention to Lordstown then, too.

Story after story was reported nationwide about the latest gut-punch to our Valley, a region that once flourished with steel production, but that had faced significant economic struggles since the loss of the steel industry and tens of thousands of jobs.

Now, however, the Valley is facing a resurgence that will include development and production of the Endurance, an exciting new vehicle that Charged EV Magazine this month featured as its cover story. The magazine’s centerfold headline read: “Will Ohio’s Voltage Valley energize a new era for the US auto industry?” And the story’s lead said this: “Big things are happening in the Mahoning Valley of northeastern Ohio.”

Indeed, and the Endurance is a big part of it.

So big, in fact, that the vice president made it a point to travel here aboard Air Force Two last week to help unveil the full-size fleet pickup truck. Incredibly, 14,000 pre-orders already are on the books for the truck with a $52,000 price tag, all sight unseen.

That means a lot because it tells LMC there is a market for it, CEO Steve Burns explained last week.

“We had to know before we sunk this much into it is there a demand; would people buy it?” he said. “Intuitively, we knew a 75-mile-per-gallon (equivalent) pickup truck could sell at our price point.”

So far, he’s been right.

From the stage inside LMC’s sprawling Lordstown complex, Pence said Lordstown Motors is leading the comeback in Lordstown “on the basis of character and resilience, a reputation of professionalism” and on the “basis of faith.”

Soon, jobs will be returning to that shuttered plant, where the vehicle will be manufactured in time for a targeted 2021 release.

The first wave of people hired will include 400 line workers and 100 more each in the battery and motor plants. About 300 or so engineers will be employed, too. Line workers will be brought in about two months before the start of production.

It’s all very uplifting, but the area’s auto industry excitement doesn’t end there.

In addition to LMC’s investment, GM in a joint venture with South Korea’s LG Chem is returning to the Valley by building a $2.3 billion electric vehicle battery-cell plant adjacent to the assembly plant.

Now, the Valley is taking on a new identity as “Voltage Valley,” sprung from the old days as the “Steel Valley” that became known as parts of the “Rust Belt” for years after the demise of the local steel industry.

Indeed, the unveiling of the high-tech new pickup truck represents the future of the automotive industry and provides a huge new opportunity for our area.

We are thrilled that Thursday’s attention on Lordstown was no longer about defeat, but rather about an uptick in the local economy. This time, it was about winning.

We salute Lordstown Motors Corp. and the faith its CEO, Steve Burns, has in his product and in the strength and grittiness of the local workforce.

We will put our faith in him as well, with best wishes for a successful and “enduring” future.

editorial@tribtoday.com

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