Economic Development

Local Leaders ‘Meet and Greet’ with GM, Workhorse

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill says he has more questions than answers following a meeting with representatives of Workhorse Group Inc., the Cincinnati-based electric vehicle manufacturer that wants to buy General Motors’s idled Lordstown Complex and build trucks there.

Hill was among the business leaders and state and local government officials who met Tuesday in Columbus with Workhorse and GM representatives.  

“They want to be the Tesla of electric trucks,” he said. 

GM’s government affairs office called the meeting, which Hill and James Dignan, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, characterized as a “meet and greet.” Among those attending were Workhorse CEO Duane Hughes and venture capitalist and Workhorse founder Steve Burns. 

Burns is raising funds for a new, related entity that would purchase the Lordstown plant and manufacture electric trucks using technology licensed from Workhorse, Dignan said.

GM spokeswoman Jeannine Ginivan confirmed that company representatives met with local officials. The purpose of the meeting was “to make an introduction to Workhorse representatives.”

Those attending included state Sens. Sean O’Brien, D-32 Bazetta, and Michael Rulli, R-33 Salem; Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof; and representatives of JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development corporation.

Hill said his preference remains GM awarding a new product to the Lordstown plant to replace the Chevrolet Cruze, so longtime workers could eventually retire from there. 

“It could possibly work out but I just have quite a few questions that need answered,” Hill said. 

Among those are the identities of the company’s financial backers, what operations would be brought in-house at the plant, what retrofitting of the plant would be required and whether the company is going to request government incentives.

There was “not a lot of substance” to the meeting, Dignan acknowledged. Burns said he wasn’t used to speaking to public officials at this early stage in the process, the chamber president added.

Public knowledge of the discussions between Workhorse and GM came to light earlier this month in a series of tweets from President Donald Trump.

Dignan said he “didn’t ask many pointed questions” of Burns and Hughes or have an opportunity to sit with them privately to discuss their plans. He extended the opportunity to meet with him or chamber staff for any discussions that were proprietary or needed to be held in confidence, he said.

O’Brien and Rulli both issued statements expressing their satisfaction with the meeting.

“I appreciate everyone taking the time during this busy budget season to meet with us to discuss a path forward for the Lordstown facility and how we can be helpful in returning manufacturing jobs to our region,” Rulli said. 

“There are hardworking and passionate individuals who are doing everything in their power to ensure families in the Valley have opportunities for good paying jobs,” he continued. “After today’s conversation, I’m hopeful this plan will proceed and begin benefiting our region.”

O’Brien was more guarded in his optimism.

“It is good to see an Ohio company interested in purchasing the Lordstown plant and potentially building new electric vehicles,” he said. “The discussions were positive and the dialogue will continue. As with any new venture, there are many challenges but we remain hopeful there will be a new vehicle in the plant.”

Pictured at top: Local leaders “meet and greet” with representatives of GM and Workhorse Group. Photo provided by office of state Sen. Michael Rulli.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.