Economic Development

Lordstown Motors Envisions 2020 Production Start

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Representatives of Lordstown Motors outlined ambitious plans Friday for proposed plans for the idled General Motors Lordstown Complex, including establishing the plant as its headquarters and bringing its first electric trucks off the line by the end of 2020, state Sen. Sean O’Brien said.

Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns participated in meetings hosted by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel. Others attending included state Sens. O’Brien and Michael Rulli and representatives of YSU, Eastern Gateway Community College, America Makes, Youngstown Business Incubator and Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center.

Lordstown Motors is in talks with GM to acquire the Lordstown Plant, which went on unallocated status after production of the Chevrolet Cruze ceased in March. Steve Burns, who previously was CEO of electric vehicle manufacturer Workhorse Group Inc., wants to license Workhorse’s electric vehicle technology to manufacture electric trucks.

“We’re talking about top of the line, new technology electric vehicle,” O’Brien said. The electric trucks would be the first such mass-produced at that scale, he said.

Mike Dektas, managing partner of Creative Storm, a public relations firm representing Lordstown Motors, said Friday afternoon that he couldn’t comment on the substance of the meeting but the company is trying to “just get out there and see what opportunities and possibilities there are.”

Friday’s discussions centered on collaborations between the new company and local partners such as those represented at the meeting.

“They’re up here. They’re taking with the people they should be and they’re talking about the obstacles and how to overcome them,” O’Brien said.

Several local entities have had ongoing discussions with Lordstown Motors and Workhorse, which would hold a minority stake in the new company. Friday’s meeting was the start of “in-person discussions” about Lordstown Motors and how local entities might be able to support their plans, said Sarah Boyarko, chief operating officer and senior vice president for economic development for the Regional Chamber.

“It was a positive conversation. I think everyone left with a nice level of comfort,” she said. “The company has a sincere approach in their messaging about what they would like to do eventually.”

One of the “exciting things” discussed was the possibility of having some sort of training center – with classes provided by an educational partner such as YSU or Eastern Gateway – at the Lordstown plant. Students could work at the plant and take classes related to the work there, potentially earning a degree and subsequently getting a job there. A similar model is in place at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Company officials also discussed possibilities such as internships and capstone projects, Tressel said.

Based on what he heard, O’Brien said he anticipates an announcement within 10 days regarding the company’s website, their production plans and details of the product.

He acknowledged the key stumbling blocks in the company’s plans are the national talks with the United Auto Workers, which must sign off on any sale of the Lordstown plant, and financing. The timeline of what the company is doing and planning seems to indicate Lordstown Motors officials “believe that they have the financing in place or are getting close,” O’Brien said.

“Everything is moving according to the plan, but we can’t consummate a deal without the approval of the UAW,” Creative Storm’s Dektas said.

Lordstown Motors has “work yet to do” with GM but the company is trying to plan for, if it is successful, how it can engage with the community, Tressel said.

Beyond providing training for future workers, potential areas of collaboration with YSU could include software development, materials science, 3-D printing and autonomous vehicle technology, which O’Brien noted will be introduced locally in the next through years through a federal grant awarded last year. “There’s a whole host of possibilities,” he said.

Workforce is one of Lordstown Motors’ major concerns, not only in terms of the company’s immediate needs but also with regard to maintaining a pipeline of qualified workers in the future, Boyarko acknowledged.

Both O’Brien and Dektas said Lordstown’s Motors’ plans involve an organized workforce.

The company wants the UAW in the plant, O’Brien said.

“Our intention is to use union workers,” Dektas affirmed.

Overall, Friday’s visit went well, participants agreed.

“We were very encouraged by the whole community and their reception to what we’re doing,” Dektas said. Tressel was a “tremendous host” and the chamber meeting was “very informative,” he said.

“You could see their enthusiasm,” Tressel remarked. “They truly want this to be about the region.” The next step will be visiting the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga to learning about the training center setup there.

For those holding out hope that GM will reallocate a new product to the Lordstown plant, O’Brien lamented that while that remains a possibility, all discussions with GM indicate that company isn’t coming back. For years, many people in the Mahoning Valley held out hope that the steel mills would come back as well.

“We tried that. It doesn’t work,” he said. “We need to reinvent ourselves in this community.”

Pictured at top: State Sen. Sean O’Brien took this photograph of local leaders meeting with Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns at YSU.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.