Economic Development

Economic Development Leaders Address GM Situation

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Economic development specialists from across the Mahoning Valley met Friday to plot strategy to address General Motors Co.’s recent announcement that it would close its Lordstown manufacturing complex.

Officials representing the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp., Eastgate Regional Council of Governments and the Western Reserve Port Authority met at Eastgate’s offices downtown to discuss how the four development agencies could assist in workforce development should the plant be shuttered.

“We had discussions about longer range planning, but also crisis action response,” said James Dignan, president and CEO of the Regional Chamber.

The idea is to pool the resources of all four agencies into a strong collective voice to attract grant monies and other assistance to workers affected by the looming job losses, Dignan says. These workers include employees at GM Lordstown’s suppliers such as Jamestown Industries, Comprehensive Logistics and Magna Seating in Lordstown.

In December 2008, a GM assembly plant in Moraine near Dayton closed, but a community initiative led by the local Chamber of Commerce helped lure a new automotive glass manufacturer – China-based Fuyao Glass America – to occupy the plant. The plant opened in 2016. About 2,000 are employed there today.

On Nov. 26, GM announced that it would close three assembly plants in Lordstown, Detroit and Canada as well as two propulsion factories in Baltimore and Warren, Mich., affecting about 8,000 employees. Lordstown is targeted for closing March 1.

When the plant closes, about 1,500 hourly workers and more than 100 salaried employees would lose their jobs.

“We’re making sure we’re working with the synergies that are available,” he said. All of these entities, Dignan noted, engage in economic development initiatives every day in their specialties. However, this effort will allow the agencies to work closer with one another to secure and develop new workforce initiatives.

Among the first objectives of the group is to secure grant money from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration that would help form a crisis-response program to address the projected closure.

Dignan said that some of the money would be used to create a coordinator’s position over an eight- to 12-month period that would help determine the skill sets and needs of displaced workers at GM Lordstown and its supply chain.

At the same time, the group would work to secure any other assistance it could, either through entities such as JobsOhio, the UAW or even the federal government. “We need all the help we can,” he said.

There are other creative programs that the group’s partners could bring to the table in their own right, Dignan noted.

Eastgate administers EDA grant programs, the Regional Chamber specializes in job and business retention, the Port Authority has the ability to fund larger projects through bond issues, while MVEDC works closely with small businesses.

MVEDC, for example, is looking to develop a resiliency fund that could be used as seed money for entrepreneurs interested in starting a new business, Dignan added.

“They did something similar about 20 years ago,” Dignan said. “This could help someone with startup costs or work with agencies such as the Youngstown Business Incubator.”

The consortium is scheduled to meet again sometime later this week, Dignan added.

Other grant opportunities available through the Appalachian Regional Commission or the EDA would also be pursued in the future as GM’s intention becomes clearer.

“We want to provide as many options as possible,” he said.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.