‘Unbelievably Good’: Local Leaders Hail Lordstown Motors-Foxconn Deal

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown wants to know more about the proposed deal between Lordstown Motors Corp. and Foxconn to purchase LMC’s plant and partner with the electric vehicle startup.

The Cleveland Democrat plans to meet Oct. 8 with Lordstown Motors officials, his office said Friday. 

If the agreement were finalized, Foxconn’s Han Hoi Technology Group would pay $230 million for the former General Motors complex and buy Lordstown Motors shares worth $50 million. The deal would also allow Lordstown Motors to leverage Foxconn’s technology and manufacturing expertise as it works to bring its Endurance EV pickup truck to market.

Brown was cautious in his assessment of the deal in an email response to a request for comment.   

“There are still too many unanswered questions about this partnership between LMC and Foxconn,” he said. “I need to know how this new partnership is going to facilitate the transition into becoming a leader in electric vehicle manufacturing in a way that directly benefits the men and women in the Mahoning Valley, not just for today but for years to come. I have every intention of getting those answers in the coming days.”  

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in an email that he spoke with Lordstown Motors CEO Daniel Ninivaggi two weeks ago and was encouraged by their conversation.  

“I want what’s best for the workers in Lordstown and if the plant needs additional investment in order to make it successful, then my hope is that this is positive news for the plant and for the workers,” he said. 

Economic development leaders in the Mahoning Valley said Friday they were encouraged by Thursday’s announcement of the proposed deal.

Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, said Friday morning he was “very excited” by the announcement. 

“This creates a lot of possibilities for continued growth in the Valley around electric vehicle manufacturing,” Coviello said. “It further diversifies our economy and it creates both supply chain opportunities for our existing companies and opportunities for our team and our partners to attract new supplies to the market.”

Coviello said his predecessor, Tom Humphries and the chamber’s chief operating officer and senior vice president, Sarah Boyarko, who oversees its economic development operation, several years ago developed strong relationships with business and government leaders in Taiwan, though he could not say whether they had any direct contact with Foxconn. 

“Tom and Sarah made very clear that Youngstown is a very attractive place for Taiwanese investment,” he said. 

The chamber worked to maintain that relationship over the years, which he hoped that played a role in Thursday’s announcement.

“It’s unbelievably good,”said Rick Stockburger, president and CEO of Brite Energy Innovators in Warren. 

Ninivaggi, when he took over as Lordstown Motors CEO, “certainly was focused on making sure” the company hit the financial numbers required to get the truck moving, Stockburger said.

“We’ve known that something like this was in the works,” the Brite leader continued, perhaps not involving a building sale, but that a joint agreement or venture was “on the table,” he said. 

He called Foxconn the “the perfect partner” for what Lordstown Motors wants to accomplish. The company wants to grow its American manufacturing footprint “and we’ve got great Americans right here willing to work,” he said. 

Stockburger pointed out that Aptiv, one of the top electrical wiring harness manufacturers in the county, has a research center in Warren. 

“So right now we’re building an entire ecosystem for vehicle electrification,” he said. “It’s great to be a part of.”

Barb Ewing, CEO of the Youngstown Business Incubator, said the news underscores the Valley’s position in the emerging EV sector. 

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for everybody to become part of what is clearly a much larger opportunity than any of us understood as this journey started,” she said. 

The chamber hasn’t scheduled any meetings yet with Foxconn or Lordstown Motors leadership since Thursday’s announcement, but has made clear that its services are available to them, Coviello said. 

“We welcome them to our community, we value their investment in our community and we will do everything we possibly can to accommodate Foxconn in the Mahoning Valley,” he said. 

John Moliterno, CEO of the Western Reserve port Authority, also said the potential deal could “potentially be very good for the Mahoning Valley and for the people of Lordstown Motors.” 

What role the port authority – which has various financing and economic development tools at its disposal — might play depends on what Lordstown Motors and Foxconn intend to do at the plant. “We don’t always fit in every circumstance,” he said.

Added Eastgate Regional Council of Governments’ executive director, Jim Kinnick: ““I just think it’s a great opportunity for us to move forward. Investment in the area is certainly a benefit for everyone. We look forward to working with them and seeing how we can be regional partners.”

Like Brown, U.S. Reps. Tim Ryan and Bill Johnson said they wanted to hear more from the company. 

A spokesman for Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said the office was holding off on further comment until the congressman had a chance to meet with company officials. 

Johnson, R-6 Ohio, said in an emailed statement he looked forward to meeting with LMC officials to learn more about the deal. 

“This has the potential to be good news for the Mahoning Valley, but we are still waiting on many of the details,” Johnson said. “It’s not a surprise, however, that there would be interest in the facility space and our workforce. I look forward to meeting with LMC officials to learn more soon.”

Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill first learned about the possible deal via a new alert around 6 a.m. Thursday, when Bloomberg reported on it. 

“You always know that something is going on behind the scenes. You just don’t know what,” he said. “There is so much going on behind the scenes we are not privy to.”

Hill acknowledged Foxconn “had some issues” revolving around plans for manufacturing flat-screen televisions in Wisconsin after the state “gave up the farm” to the company – billions of dollars in subsidies for a plant has yet to be used – but he was encouraged nonetheless by the announcement. He also has heard of potential partnerships with Apple and Fisker to build electric vehicles, presenting other potential investment and job opportunities for the Lordstown complex. 

“The No. 1 thing for Lordstown Motors was funding and this company does have deep pockets,” Hill said.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.