GM’s Barra, Reuss Tour Lordstown Ultium Cells Plant

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – An executive team from General Motors that included Chairwoman and CEO Mary Barra stopped in the Mahoning Valley last week to observe firsthand the progress underway at Ultium Cells LLC’s electric-vehicle battery plant, according to posts on the business social media platform LinkedIn.

“I’m inspired by the team’s passion for GM’s future with Ultium Cells LLC,” Barra commented in a post on LinkedIn Monday.  “Each of you has a key role to play in achieving General Motors’ vision for an all-electric, zero-emissions future, and I look forward to continuing our work to create a better world.”

Barra, GM President Mark Reuss, and Gerald Johnson, GM’s executive vice president of global manufacturing, were among the senior leadership that toured the new plant, according to Johnson’s post Tuesday.

“Last week Mary Barra, Mark Reuss and I had an opportunity to spend time at Spring Hill Assembly plant and Ultium Cells LLC,” Johnson said. “These facilities in Tennessee and Ohio will play central roles in GM’s all-electric future.”

Ultium is a joint venture between GM and Korea-based LG Energy Solution and is constructing a $2.3 billion electric vehicle battery factory in Lordstown that will supply GM’s future EV models. Pictured above is a rendering provided by Ultium of how the plant will look when construction is complete.

“We like to talk about moments here in Ultium Cells,” Tom Gallagher, Ultium’s chief operating officer, said in a statement.  The plant and its employees “showcased a great moment in our journey becoming GM & LG’s flagship battery cell manufacturing plant,” he said.

The visit took place Aug. 12, according to posts.

“It was nice Thursday to get into our facility and see all the progress that is being made,” wrote Zach Cherol, Ultium’s production supervisor.  “Mary Barra came and gave a tour of the facility and gave a nice speech at the end.”

Kevin Kerr, Ultium’s plant director, said in a LinkedIn post the visit “was a very special moment for the Ultium Cells team and one of many more to come.” 

According to Kerr, GM’s senior executives were on hand “to see the rapid construction and tooling progress made onsite.” Executives were also introduced to the Ultium team, best practices being leveraged through the joint venture and a strategic workforce development partnership the company has established with Youngstown State University, the post stated.

“A common observation throughout the visit was the team’s energy,” Kerr wrote in his post. “Thanks to the #OneUltiumTeam for your ongoing leadership and engagement, and to our JV leaders for your ongoing support.”

Brooke Waid, Ultium’s launch team senior analyst, communications also thanked the executives for their visit.  “Everyday is a great day here at Ultium Cells LLC, but this was a momentous one.”

Ultium Cells began construction on the 2.8 million-square-foot-plant – a factory big enough to fit 30 soccer fields – in early 2020. Company officials said in May that it expects to have hired about 200 employees by the end of this year as installation of production equipment begins.

A GM spokesperson said it was the executive team’s first visit as a group, and provided a great opportunity for them to collectively observe progress at the site. 

Ultium’s plant sits on more than 300 acres that was once owned by GM. In 2019, GM closed its nearby Lordstown Assembly plant and sold the factory and land to Lordstown Motors Corp. 

In early 2020, Ultium purchased about 158 acres along Tod Avenue from NP Development, which acquired the land after GM’s bankruptcy in 2010. Ultium acquired another 144 acres from Lordstown Motors in December 2020.

The plant will begin hiring production workers beginning in early 2022, a process that should continue through the end of the year.  Once in full production, Ultium expects to have more than 1,100 employees at the site.

Ultium has hosted several informational job fairs across the Valley, providing potential recruits information on the nature of the jobs and training that will become available at the plant. 

The Lordstown facility is one of four such plants slated to produce batteries for GM EVs.

This year, GM announced it had selected Spring Hill as the site for a second battery-manufacturing plant, while the locations for two future battery factories have not been announced. 

The Detroit automaker has said it wants to manufacture an all-electric vehicle portfolio by 2035. GM announced last year that it would invest $2 billion to retool its Spring Hill plant in Tennessee so it could accommodate production of electric vehicles.  

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.