Prayer Vigil Today, Planning Tomorrow to Support Plant

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – A prayer vigil this afternoon and a planning meeting tomorrow are the latest efforts in the Mahoning Valley’s response to Monday’s announcement that General Motors would cease production in March at its Lordstown Complex.

The Drive It Home campaign will hold a Vigil of Hope this afternoon to offer prayers for the future of the plant. It will take place at the plant near the flagpole adjacent to Hallock Young Road at 3:15 p.m., shortly after the plant’s sole remaining shift ends for the day.

On Friday, representatives of four of the Mahoning Valley’s major economic development partners will meet to develop a coordinated strategy should the plant close permanently.

Drive it Home is the community support campaign operated by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and the United Auto Workers Local 1112, which represents some 1,500 hourly employees at the plant. It was launched Nov. 19, a week before GM announced it would discontinue manufacturing the Cruze, the auto manufacturer’s top-selling model not long ago. The focus of the campaign is to secure a new product for the Lordstown Complex.

The objective of the vigil is to bring the community together “as we try to convince General Motors to grow jobs in the Mahoning Valley, to protect manufacturing and to make sure that American cars are made in America,” said Dennis Willard, owner of New Precision Media, a Columbus-based design and communications firm engaged by Drive It Home.

“We’re trying to send a message to the community and ask them to be involved in this,” he said.

“It’s a small step, but a big step at the same time,” said Dave Green, president of UAW Local 1112. “We’re asking people to pray every day through December.”

Willard, a Youngstown native and former journalist who worked in northeastern Ohio media, is so far volunteering his time on the campaign’s behalf.

“He wanted to help. He’s from the Valley,” Green said.

“This is very personal to me,” Willard said. “This is about much more than the hardworking people who go in and out of the gate at Lordstown every day. It’s about the future of the entire region and the state.”

To show support for the Lordstown plant, workers and community members are being asked to use the campaign’s profile frame on Facebook, which has the hashtag #SaveLordstown.

The meeting Friday afternoon will include representatives from the Regional Chamber, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Western Reserve Port Authority and Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp., said Jim Kinnick, Eastgate’s executive director.

“This is about bringing all those folks that are working and participating in the economic development sphere,” added James Dignan, president and CEO of the Regional Chamber.

The meeting will focus on identifying resources such as grants that might be available to the community should GM decide not to award a new product to the plant, he said.

“We’re going to talk about some of the opportunities for federal grants and investment for communities that are impacted by a large-scale event, even an economic event,” Dignan said. Those include workforce training and redevelopment funds.

Drive It Home and its partners, including at the state and federal level, are working to convince GM that Lordstown is “a valid, viable place for future investment,” whether it is alternative fuel sources or autonomous vehicles, he continued. At the same time, the community can’t put all its eggs in one basket.

“If there isn’t a new product coming down the road, we have to be prepared for it,” he said.

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