As GM Ends Production, Region Prepares for Future
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A recently completed study of the impact of the General Motors Lordstown Complex’s closing is providing a roadmap for the future once the plant ends production today.
Eastgate Regional Council of Governments engaged Cleveland State University’s Center for Economic Development to prepare the study, which is expected to be released today.
The study will be used to prepare an application to engage a recovery coordinator as well as secure other resources for the region, said Genna Petrolla, Eastgate economic development program manager.
Eastgate is part of a group of economic development agencies that assembled in the wake of GM’s Nov. 26 announcement that it would discontinue production of the Chevrolet Cruze at the Lordstown plant. Its efforts were focused on securing workforce training help, grants and other assistance to cushion the blow of the plant’s closing.
The group included Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, Mahoning Valley Economic development Corp. and Western Reserve Port Authority. It is one of a several initiatives aimed at addressing the impact of the plant closing, including efforts to convince GM to site a new product there.
Eastgate engaged CSU for economic modeling to determine the impact of the plant’s closure, as well as the cumulative impact of the loss of the second and third shifts over the past year or so. The center receives funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and prepared the study at no cost to the local partners, who visited CSU to preview the results Monday.
“The numbers are pretty rough, but it’s time for all of us to get on the same page,” Petrolla said.
Eastgate still supports the Drive it Home Ohio campaign – a initiative to convince GM to locate a new product at the Lordstown plant – “but we also have to take a look at the reality of what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket,” she warned.
In addition to engaging a recovery coordinator, the application also will deal with addressing the immediate needs of those workers who have been displaced at GM and its suppliers, and to assist efforts to find a path forward for the plant. And it will deal lwith the need to diversify the local economy to lessen the impact of a similar economic hit in the future.
“We understand as a group we need a solution for right now and we need a solution for the future to avoid this happening again,” Petrolla said.
Earlier this week, Dave Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, stressed that despite speculation to the contrary, the Lordstown plant is not for sale, and efforts remain focused on bringing a new product there.
In the weeks leading up to today, Drive it Home Ohio – the support campaign launched by the Regional Chamber and Local 1112 – has distributed more than 5,000 signs, forwarded letters from local schoolchildren to GM CEO Mary Barra, and more recently sent tins of M&M candies to Barra and GM’s board of directors bearing messages such as “Save Lordstown” and “We Love GM.”
The campaign has gotten “tremendous support,” not only in terms of financial contributions from donors including the Cafaro Co. and the Lordstown Energy Center, but from elected officials at federal, state and local levels – Democrats and Republicans, Green said.
“It’s important that when GM is ready to come to the table and they’re ready to announce a new product here, that table’s going to be set,” he said.
Drive it Home Ohio also is working with the Valley’s delegation to the Ohio General Assembly to advance a resolution to show the state of Ohio’s support for GM reallocating a product at Lordstown, said James Dignan, chamber president and CEO.
Tuesday afternoon, state Rep. Glenn Holmes, D-63 Girard, announced that House Concurrent Resolution 6, legislation he introduced urging GM to keep the Lordstown plant open, passed the House Commerce and Labor Committee unanimously. The legislation calls on GM to award a new product to the plant and says the state and its workers “are ready and willing to come to a solution that puts Ohioans back to work.”
Gov. Mike DeWine already has made a verbal commitment to assist GM, and hopefully the General Assembly will pass the resolution unanimously, Dignan said. “This is a way the state can say we’re here to support GM’s continued investment and they want to partner in that economic development, whatever it takes,” he said.
What happens with the idled plant in large measure depends on labor negotiations between GM and the UAW, “and we’ll go from there,” the chamber leader acknowledged.
Last week, the UAW International’s vice president and its regional director – who is from the Valley – both toured the plant and met with workers.
“They’re fighting for our future. They recognize that we’re not just numbers,” Green said. “These guys really are stepping it up for us and I know they really are going to be fighting as hard as they can, and I’m optimistic that they’re going to be able to get some product allocated for us here in Lordstown.”
As part of the campaign, the chamber also has compiled a list of companies in the northeastern Ohio-western Pennsylvania region that are hiring, among them Anderson-Dubose Co., which primarily supplies McDonald’s restaurants in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The company has gotten some applications from GM workers, but many applicants lack Class A commercial driver’s licenses or don’t want to perform the physically demanding work the distribution center requires, said Linsey Gray, human resource manager. Workers from Falcon Transport Co., a transportation services company that serves GM, are the most transferable to the company.
“We are certainly open to interviewing, but I don’t know that many are looking for this type of work,” Gray said. “Also, although we pay well for the area, many are looking for more money than we offer.”
Nearly every day, someone coming into Snips N Curls in Girard is talking about what is happening at the plant, and several customers have had to move, said Paul Polito, acting manager. The Girard salon displays one of the thousands of signs distributed by Drive It Home Ohio.
Polito, who is in a card club with several GM workers, said four of them already moved to Tennessee for work. “I had a few people who were customers who had to move,” he added.
To thank the workers, O’Donold’s Irish Pub & Grill in Austintown will host a party from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday featuring a complimentary food buffet and drink specials.
“We’ve gotten a lot of GM business throughout the years so we want to give back and show our solidarity in this trying time,” said Christian Rinehart, CEO of Justice League Restaurant Group, which operates O’Donold’s as well as other local restaurants.
The Austintown restaurant gets both retirees and current workers, he said. Many already have moved away to take transfers to other plants.
Rinehart could not say how much the event would cost. “I never thought about it. The cost is not very important because it’s about being part of the community,” he remarked.
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