Passing On TJX Project Would Be ‘Missed Opportunity,’ Ryan Says
WARREN, Ohio – Losing out on a potential 1,000 jobs would be “a hell of a missed opportunity for the Mahoning Valley,” U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said.
Joined by representatives of United Auto Workers Local 1112 at their union hall Monday following a tour of the General Motors Lordstown Complex, Ryan discussed his visit to the plant as well as the TJX Companies Inc.’s proposal to build a HomeGoods distribution center in Lordstown, on the opposite side of Interstate 80 from the GM plant.
Ryan’s office is drafting a letter to TJX’s CEO “letting him know that there is a lot of support for them coming here,” the congressman said.
“Any time you get an opportunity to land 1,000 for people in this community, we’ve got to go after it as aggressively as we can,” Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said.
He also said he hoped to find common ground with village government, residents and the company to allow the project to move forward. At a meeting a week ago, citizens raised concerns about the project potentially encroaching on residential areas. The Regional Chamber is also arranging a private meeting today with Lordstown residents opposed to the project.
Ryan said he wanted to be “sensitive” to the needs of those expressing concerns and wanted to find “a middle ground” for the parties.
“It would be a hell of a missed opportunity for us and for the people of our community,” he lamented. Though the jobs “maybe don’t pay as high as some people would like,” about 150 front-office positions will be particularly well paying. The $160 million project will generate construction jobs as well.
The Lordstown Planning Commission is scheduled to meet Monday night to review the zoning change for the TJX project. Its recommendations would then go before village council.
Before yesterday’s tour, Ryan said his last visit to the GM Lordstown plant was about two years ago, during the celebration of its 50th anniversary. Monday’s visit was prompted by a meeting between the congressman and local UAW leaders during the union’s national conference in Washington, D.C., last month. During that meeting, Ryan asked what he could do to help the Lordstown complex, and part of that process was getting the congressman into the plant to met with workers and see what they do, said Local 1112 President Glenn Johnson..
Workers at the plant manufacture GM’s Chevrolet Cruze, which has seen its demand decline with lower gas prices boosting demand for trucks and other vehicles.
“We have a world-class vehicle and we’re very proud of it,” Johnson said. “Unfortunately, consumer preference has changed.”
Ryan said he did not anticipate proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum to have much of an effect on GM, as it sources about 90% of its materials within the United States. Both Ryan and Johnson said it was important to position the plant for any potential new products that might come along.
“Our task is to make sure that we put ourselves in the best possible position when the negotiations open up,” Johnson said. The next national negotiations open in 2019, he said.
As Ryan walked through the plant, each worker he encountered told him that they could only control what they could control.
“‘We can only make a great car. We can’t control the market,’ ” he recalled being told.
Johnson also pledged any support the local could provide to support the TJX project. The Mahoning Valley’s spirit runs through Youngstown State University to the local hospitals, the schools and the area charitable giving campaigns, making it a desirable location, he said.
“All you have to do is get people to come here,” he said. “You come here, we get our hooks in you and we’re going to keep you.”
Pictured: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan speaks at the UAW Local 1112 union hall. He was joined by Local 1112 shop chairman Dan Morgan and President Glenn Johnson.
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