Valley Mayors Prepare Letter to President Trump

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A coalition of mayors representing communities across the Mahoning Valley said Friday it would hold off sending a letter to President Donald Trump, Gov. John Kasich, and Gov.-elect Mike DeWine related to the proposed closing of the General Motors Lordstown complex.

Mayor Doug Franklin of Warren said during the quarterly meeting of the Mahoning River Corridor Mayors Association that language in the draft letter should be changed in order to promote a more positive message.

“I wish we could’ve signed it right now, right here,” Franklin said, noting the letter should go out early next week.

The letter calls on Trump, Kasich and DeWine to use leverage at a federal and state level to encourage GM to bring another product to Lordstown. On Nov. 26, GM announced it would close five plants in North America on March 1, and Lordstown was one of them.

“We are asking for your assistance in responding to this crisis,” the draft letter read. “We hope federal and state incentives could be offered to GM to induce new investment in a new product line.”

However, the letter continued with two sentences that called for the officials to assist GM in recruiting a different auto manufacturer to occupy the plant and to urge GM to turn the Lordstown property over to the local community for redevelopment and job creation should the efforts to attract a new product prove unsuccessful.

Franklin said that it was unlikely GM would recruit a competitor to take over the plant and wanted the sentence omitted. Iudiciani agreed, and noted that the phrasing suggested the initial request would be unsuccessful.

“I don’t like negatives,” Iudiciani said. Plus, he added that asking federal and state government to help convince GM to turn the plant over to the community could be premature, and the language should be changed.

“We’re hoping we don’t have to go that far,” noted Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill. “They haven’t told us they are going to permanently shutter it, they’re just saying they’re ceasing production.”

Hill said 2019 is a collective bargaining contract year between GM and the International UAW, and anything could happen over the course of the next several months. “There are a lot of variables out there. I’m hoping when it’s all said and done we do have a new product.”

The leadership of UAW Local 1112, which represents about 1,500 hourly workers at the plant, traveled to Detroit on Friday to meet with the leadership of the International to discuss next steps.

The mayor of Lordstown added that he has received calls from Ohio’s two U.S. senators, Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman; as well as U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan, D-13; Gov.-elect DeWine, and Lt. Gov.-elect Jon Husted.

“They’ve all said they would go to the mat for us,” Hill said.

The remainder of the letter, Franklin noted, reflected how the region would be impacted should the plant close.

“It is not just the loss of 1,600 jobs. The multiplier effect could lead to the loss of another 10,000 jobs or more. It becomes a challenge to deliver public services and maintain the infrastructure of our cities under these conditions,” the letter said.

A new letter would be drafted and then released, Franklin added. “It’s important that you know you have the support of this association,” he told Hill.

Other mayors attending the meeting Friday included Steven Mientkiewicz of Niles, James Melfi of Girard, Lyle Waddell of Newton Falls, Jamael Tito Brown of Youngtown, Terry Stocker of Struthers and Nick Phillips of Campbell.

Melfi said the immediate impact of the GM plant closing in terms of the loss of income tax to Girard would be minimal. “It’s about $16,000 a year,” he said. “But, it’s measured more than that.”

When GM discontinued the third and second shifts at Lordstown, Melfi said that workers who lived in Girard were forced to relocate and take jobs elsewhere. “We’ll lose folks through transfers or those searching for other jobs, schools will lose students, and we’ll lose pretty good wage earners.”

That means more houses for sale in strong neighborhoods, some of which he said are still vacant from GM workers who relocated after the other shifts were cut.

“It won’t certainly have the result that we saw in 2008,” during the Great Recession, Melfi noted. “But there are challenges.”

The mayors association also heard from Glenda Baumgarner, senior director of external engagement at Jobs Ohio, who noted that despite the bad news from GM, the region has attracted some significant investment over the last six years, and can continue to lure more.

“What we’re saying is, ‘This region is open,’” she told the group.

Between 2012 and 2018, Jobs Ohio has participated in 39 different projects across Mahoning and Trumbull counties, according to Baumgarner. These efforts have translated into 2,064 new jobs and 7,188 retained positions in the region, $1.9 billion in investment and $86.3 million in new payroll.

“These are projects that we’ve just invested in,” she said, noting that there are hundreds of other projects in the two counties in which private entities are leading. “You’re doing really well.”

Pictured at top: Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill, Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, Girard Mayor James Melfi and Newton Falls Mayor Lyle Waddell.

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