GM Lordstown

Former Workhorse CEO Unable to Confirm Pence Comments

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Mayor Arno Hill said Thursday that the former CEO of Workhorse, Steve Burns, was unable to confirm or deny remarks made by Vice President Mike Pence earlier in the week that suggested an investment group Burns spearheads had raised enough funding to purchase General Motors’ Lordstown Complex.

Hill said he reached out to Burns on Tuesday evening regarding the vice president’s remarks.  He received a reply later Wednesday.

“He texted me back and said that he was under a strict non-disclosure agreement,” Hill said of Burns. According to Burns’ text, Hill was told that the former Workhorse CEO would be reaching out to General Motors regarding the matter.

The mayor then called his contacts at General Motors and they were unaware as to whether Burns’ investment group had secured funding.  

“Their government people heard what Pence had said and they are looking into it,” he said. “Right now, we’re in a holding pattern.”

On Tuesday, Pence made statements that indicated an investment group led by Burns that is affiliated with Workhorse had secured the proper financing to move ahead with the purchase.

“Workhorse, I learned just this week, secured financing to move forward to keep jobs in that community and we’re going to continue to look for ways to support that,” Pence told a group of reporters following a groundbreaking event near Columbus. 

Meanwhile, state Sens. Sean O’Brien, D-32 Bazetta, and Michael Rulli, R-33 Salem, announced they would visit Workhorse’s headquarters Friday and meet with executives regarding the potential purchase of the Lordstown plant.

“Sen. Rulli and I look forward to sitting down once again with leaders at Workhorse to discuss the possibility of them purchasing and bringing the production of new electric vehicles to the GM Lordstown plant in my district,” O’Brien said in a statement. “Our last meeting was very productive, and we hope to continue making progress on that front, with an eye toward bringing jobs back to our corner of the state.”

O’Brien and Rulli are also scheduled to tour Workhorse’s facility in Loveland, near Cincinnati.

“Sen. O’Brien and I are determined to put this situation to bed and breathe new life into the Lordstown plant,” Rulli said in a statement. “Working with Workhorse and all interested parties to bring a new product to this plant would go far toward revitalizing the Valley. It’s the beginning of a new day, with leaders on both sides of the aisle working to bring about effective change to our region.”

In May, President Donald Trump tweeted that Workhorse, a Cincinnati-based electric-vehicle manufacturer, had agreed to acquire the plant and build electric trucks at the 6-million square-foot facility. It is estimated that the venture would need to raise about $300 million to buy the Lordstown plant. 

On March 6, GM Lordstown produced its final Chevrolet Cruze and about 1,500 workers lost their jobs and the plant shut down.  In 2017, GM Lordstown had employed more than 4,000. 

“When we got word about Lordstown, I was around when the president picked up the phone and called GM and let Mary Barra know that we wanted them to fund a solution for that community and we are encouraged about the progress, but we are going to stay directly engaged,” Pence said Tuesday. 

The Lordstown plant remains under “unallocated” status, meaning that GM has not awarded the plant a new vehicle to build.  Meanwhile, talks between the United Auto Workers and GM continued in Detroit related to a new collective bargaining agreement.  

These talks were also to address the fate of Lordstown and other North American plants that GM intends to shutter.

Related coverage:

Pence: Workhorse Secures Funding to Buy GM Lordstown

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