Economic Development

Portman Puts Faith in DeWine Ahead of GM Meeting

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said Tuesday afternoon that he hoped the new administration in Columbus would be able to convince General Motors to give “another look” to the Lordstown Complex, which is expected less than two months from now.

Portman, R-Ohio, spoke yesterday with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and had earlier spoken with Gov. Mike DeWine, who are traveling to Detroit today for the North American International Auto Show. After meetings today with other GM officials, the governor and lieutenant governor have a meeting tomorrow morning with GM CEO Mary Barra.

“I just wanted to give them our best thinking about what we had learned from some of the responses that we had gotten in our meetings with the CEO of General Motors, to be sure we’re all on the same wavelength as they go up to Detroit,” Portman said on a conference call with Ohio reporters Tuesday afternoon.

“I’m hopeful on a lot of different issues, and this is one, where we’ve got a new team and new energy, and my hope is that they’ll be able to convince General Motors that this plant deserves another look,” he continued.

In late November, GM announced that production of the Chevrolet Cruze, which is built at the Lordstown Complex, would end in March. The carmaker did not designate a new product for the plant, which now has a workforce of about 1,600 salaried and hourly employees.

Portman, who told reporters he met last week with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown outside the Lordstown plant but did not elaborate on the meeting, praised the workforce at the plant and pointed out that the Cruze was named “Compact Car of the Year” in 2017 by Consumer Reports and last year it was considered GM’s top plant in terms of quality. He also pointed to the concessions workers made to land the Cruze a decade ago.

“The plant has earned the right to get a new vehicle,” he said. The closing would also leave Ohio without a GM assembly plant, he said.

Also headed to Detroit Wednesday will be representatives of Drive It Home Ohio, an advocacy group formed to show local support for the Lordstown plant.

“We’re heading up there and making sure we have a presence,” said Dave Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, which represents some 1,000 workers at the plant and, with the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, spearheaded Drive It Home.

Drive It Home Ohio representatives and other area leaders headed to the auto show include James Dignan, president and CEO of the Regional Chamber, and Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill, as well as representatives of JobsOhio.

“We’re proud that the governor is taking this on, and they’re speaking on behalf of the state and specifically the Lordstown facility, bringing that facility the attention and focus it deserves,” Dignan said.

The Drive It Home Ohio group will be there to answer any questions following a late-morning media availability by DeWine and Husted at the auto show.

“It’s about making sure we’re visible and we have a unity of message, that it’s not just local workers but it’s our entire region and the state of Ohio here to support further investment by GM at the Lordstown facility,” Dignan said. “We’re being proactive and supporting that future investment decision.”

Green also will return to Detroit for a UAW vigil Friday.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.