Some Ex-GM Workers Return to Plant as Chamber Sets Procurement Events

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Almost every day for 30 years, George Syrianoudis walked through the doors at the body shop at the General Motors Lordstown Complex. When he left the plant for the last time in June, three months after the final Chevrolet Cruze rolled off the line, he retired from the automaker.

A franchisee of High Octane Coffee Co., he poured himself into his post-GM life and took on more duties at his shop at the state Route 46-Interstate 80 interchange. Syrianoudis’ plan was to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and run a coffee shop for as long as he could.

But then, Lordstown Motors Corp. purchased the plant and announced it would begin production on electric-powered pickup truck by the end of this year.

“I love the coffee shop, I love hanging out and meeting customers, I love it all, but I needed to challenge myself a little bit,” says Syrianoudis, who will take a position as body engineering manager at Lordstown Motors Jan. 27.

“The challenge, the excitement of it, the opportunity to do something that’s really not been done anywhere yet: produce an electric truck,” he says of what drew him back to the auto industry.

After being one of the last GM workers at the Lordstown Complex, George Syrianoudis started working full-time at his High Octane Coffee Co. shop in Austintown.

After General Motors ended production at the plant in March, Syrianoudis was part of the skeleton crew that was tasked with shutting down the plant for good. A longtime body shop worker who ended his GM career as general foreman of the department, part of his duties were turning off the machines that stamped metal for the Cruze’s body.

“We shut down the equipment in a way so that if GM would reconsider or something changed, it could be fired back up,” he says. “I’m pretty familiar with how that was done, where the files are stored, plus I just know the equipment anyways from being in the body shop for so many years.”

In November, Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns said the company would employ as many as 400 and, a month later, reported the startup automaker had hired a human resources manager for the plant and that “bulk of the work right now is with the 70 engineers building the prototype.”

Lordstown Motors could not be reached for comment.

On Tuesday the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber announced it will conduct, in conjunction with Lordstown Motors, two informational events for local and regional suppliers to connect directly with the company and the opportunities its plant may provide.

The first event, Jan. 29 from 8 to 10 a.m. at Stambaugh Auditoriium, is designated for plant contractors and service suppliers. The second event, for suppliers of vehicle components and production, is set for Feb. 4, also from 8 to 10 a.m. at Stambaugh Auditorium. The cost for both events is $15 for chamber members, $25 for nonmembers.

According to the chamber, executives from Lordstown Motors Corp. will provide a company overview and highlight current and future opportunities to do business with Lordstown Motors.

As for the new automaker’s workforce, Syrianoudis says he stays in touch with his former coworkers, and some of them will be reunited under Lordstown Motors.

“I don’t know officially and can’t speak for other people, but there are quite a few folks returning,” he says.

Should Lordstown Motors hit its goal of the having its Endurance pickup truck hit the market this year, it will breathe new life into an manufacturing complex that a year ago was all but pronounced dead. The ripple effect of GM shutting down operations in Lordstown was forecast by some to cost upward of 10,000 jobs. The job multiplier is generally considered between six and 10 and is highest closer to production sites; the Lordstown Complex laid off 1,500 workers when it closed.

But since then, Lordstown Motors has purchased the plant, GM has announced a partnership with LG Chem to build a battery plant in the area and Hyperion Motors, a startup developing vehicles powered by hydrogen fuel cells, has moved its offices to Warren.

“Someone came up with a new name for the area: Voltage Valley. With the battery plant, with Lordstown Motors, with the other ventures, it’s interesting and a great transition,” Syrianoudis says. “We have a chance to go into this new industry that still has roots in automotive.”

And that, he says, is what drew him back to the industry that he worked in for 30 years.

“I love challenges and starting fresh. I’m excited and I think the Valley should be excited with us. If we can pull this off, we may be the first plant to produce an electric truck,” he says.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.