Guest Commentary: Lordstown Smart Logistics Hub Poised for Federal Investment

By Rick Stockburger, President & CEO, Brite Energy Innovators
LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Imagine a roadway where electric vehicles are continuously recharged. Commercial trucks do not lose time at a charging station; the pavement they drive on refreshes them. Freight cargo containers are autonomously transferred between railcars and semitrailers. Safety is valued. Productivity is maximized. Industrial businesses fight to bring their jobs and secure space in this future-focused industrial center. 

While these cutting-edge advancements in transportation logistics may seem futuristic, a partnership has emerged to develop these next-generation technologies as soon as next year. The project, dubbed the Lordstown Smart Logistics Hub, builds on the momentum of more than $4 billion of private investment in an area where highway, rail, fiber optic and electric power infrastructure intersect. It will position Lordstown and the Mahoning Valley as the premier logistics hub in the Midwest.

In May, the Western Reserve Port Authority applied for a U.S. Department of Transportation BUILD grant to help fund these transformative enhancements to the regional transportation network. They recognize that federal investment in this innovative project is crucial to its implementation.

While the grant application to U.S. Department of Transportation back in May has brought additional awareness to the project, it is certainly not the first time that the feds have noticed the energy in the Mahoning Valley. Washington has already taken a keen interest with Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, visiting the Lordstown Motors plant this summer.

  • Regional stakeholders are propelling the project forward, but the plan has numerous public and private advocates extending across the state and the nation. DriveOhio, the state’s new center for smart mobility, has played a crucial role in advising the team on technical matters.  
  • Ohio Turnpike Executive Director Ferzan Ahmed says the project exemplifies its “goal of supporting infrastructure projects that enhance access between the Ohio Turnpike and connected areas of population, commerce, and industry… along Ohio’s segment of a critical national east-west freight corridor.”
  • The effort will draw upon the national expertise of the Transportation Research Center in Marysville, Ohio, and Utah State University’s Sustainable Electrified Transportation Center, which includes Purdue University, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs and the University of Texas-El Paso.

Federal awards for the BUILD grant are to be announced on September 15. Project partners are diligently advocating state and federal officials on the importance of investment in Lordstown and the Mahoning Valley.Community and business leaders need to join in the effort. 

Reach out to our federal leadership and stress the importance of this project to the region:increased safety and efficiency in goods movement; enhanced supply chain resiliency; bringing jobs back to America and; transforming the Rust Belt of yesterday into the Tech Belt of the future. The message should be loud and clear.

Smart freight logistics is no longer merely a vision to be imagined. The Mahoning Valley is ready to capitalize on federal investment in innovative transportation technologies. The future is now in Lordstown!

Brite Energy Innovators is a incubator for energy-related businesses. Based in downtown Warren, it is the state’s only such incubator. Since it was founded in 2011, Brite has helped more than 250 portfolio companies and enabled them to secure investments totaling more than $135 million.

Pictured: A rendering of the General Motors-LG Chem battery plant in Lordstown. Construction has already begun on the $2.3 billion plant. Along with Lordstown Motors and projects that are in the works, Lordstown is positioned to be a hub of the next generation of transportation.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.