Economic Development

State Sens. Hail GM, LG Joint Venture as ‘the Future’

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – State Sens. Michael Rulli and Sean O’Brien are hailing the announced partnership between General Motors and LG Chem as the next step in the region’s electric vehicle industry, but say there are “growing pains” that will need to be addressed.

During the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s Lattes and Legislators event at the Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology Thursday morning, Rulli, R-33 Salem, and O’Brien, D-32 Bazetta, discussed the announcement that GM and LG Chem, a South Korea-based chemical company, will invest $2.3 billion into the Lordstown are for electric battery production.

“Electric vehicles, electric motors, electric batteries are all the future,” O’Brien said. “So if we could become the hub of that now, get ahead of the curve, it’s very exciting.”

The announcement is the latest development in the future of electric vehicles in Mahoning Valley. Last month, Lordstown Motors Corp. acquired the former GM Lordstown manufacturing complex to produce its line of battery-electric trucks. The state senators highlighted the importance for potential Lordstown Motors customer Workhorse to strike a deal with the United States Postal Service to manufacture and supply mail trucks.

They also addressed some potential long-term issues with electric vehicles, particularly the availability of charging stations and the evolving technology. The senators wanted to know if there will be standards set for the charging stations and how newer batteries will impact the market.

“Will the charging station be the same today as they would four or five years from now? Probably not,” O’Brien said during a question-and-answer session. “So how do we adjust to that?”

At the event, Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel said the university and other educational institutions have been in contact with Lordstown Motors and elected officials to install curriculums for the industry.

“When you have YSU, Kent State, Eastern Gateway Community College all coming together, recognizing this is the future, we’re going to need to have a trained workforce,” O’Brien said. “Whether it’s somebody on the line, or whether somebody in management, or whether it’s a scientist or research and development, we’re going to need all these people.”

In addition to the news of the day, O’Brien and Rulli discussed the state’s capital budget and the day-to-day hurdles for approving community projects with a $150 million budget. Rulli didn’t get into details on the projects, but said approximately 70% will likely be approved.

“Unfortunately, the capital budget is not quite as large as the regular budget,” Rulli said. “So we’re going to see if we can get some of those small projects done right now. And the bigger projects, we’ll talk about the big budget that’s coming up at the end of 2020.”

One of the projects in the works is Oh Wow!’s relocation to the McCroy Building. The science center will own the larger property, and larger drop-off sites will provide safer transportation for children.

“Even today it was let known to me that they’re going to have charging stations, which sort of ties the whole ‘future electric’ all together,” Rulli said. “And it being down on the plaza is amazing, and I think we’ll probably be able to help them out.”

Pictured: State Sens. Sean O’Brien, D-32, and Michael Rulli, R-33, discuss the GM, LG Chem joint venture during Thursday’s Lattes and Legislators.

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Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.