Economic Development

With $15K Donation, ‘Drive It Home’ Campaign Expands

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – The Drive It Home campaign has largely been a local effort, with blue-and-green signs going up in area homes and businesses and shows of support online. But thanks to a $15,000 donation from the Lordstown Energy Center, the effort will expand.

“The next focus is on expanding our electronic media presence — the website, social media and all that. We’ve been doing that at our capacity as the chamber and with the union, but that’s not our strength,” said James Dignan, president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, at the press conference Friday.

The campaign is aimed at showing General Motors the importance of its Lordstown Complex to the region and state in light of the announcement in November that the plant would be shuttered.

The chamber will “bring somebody in who can run that campaign,” Dignan said to expand Drive It Home’s reach statewide.

“As we grow across the state of Ohio to all the communities that are affected through the supply chain, we want to make sure we have that reach,” he said. “We’re talking about bringing this on the road, maybe going to suppliers in Dayton and Columbus that have products coming here and meet with them and support them.”

Having this kind of support in the Mahoning Valley is emblematic of the business community’s support for GM Lordstown, said the president of UAW Local 1112, Dave Green.

“I’ve been getting calls from business owners and leaders asking, ‘What can we do?’ This campaign gives everyone an avenue to support,” he said. “We’re already seeing signage in the windows. We want to see more yard signs up and we want to travel through the state. It’s a continuing effort to let the company know that we’re not going away.”

From the earliest stages of development, Lordstown and the rest of the area has been supportive of the power plant and now it’s time to repay that kindness, said plant manager Drew Schneider, .

“Some want to stay back in their corner, but we want to get out there. We’ve already done quite a few things with the community and we want it to continue,” he said. “This community has supported us in the past, from getting us here and through all the steps it takes to get a power plant built. This is just another way we want to be part of the community.”

Added Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill: “GM has been part of this valley 52 years. We’ve seen a lot come and go through this valley. I won’t say these are exciting times, but with the team we’ve put together for Drive It Home, hopefully we can make it happen.”

With Friday’s donation and more to come in the new year, the focus is on showing General Motors how important the Lordstown assembly is to the Mahoning Valley and the rest of the state.

Green said Local 1112 shop chairman Dan Morgan is in touch regularly with GM, as is UAW Region 1A director Rich Rankin, as the UAW approaches the expiration of its contract in September.

“They’ve talked about this being a bargaining issue. We’ve talked about that from the very beginning, that this is puts us in a more difficult position and that may be why they’re doing this,” Green said.

Since GM Lordstown is officially in “unallocated” status after March 8, there has been no definitive word on the plant beyond the end of production of the Chevrolet Cruze. A much clearer picture should develop after a new contract is signed.

“Within nine months, we’ll have some confirmation of either future investment of permanent closure. I think it’s going to be future investment, but we won’t have that information until September of next year,” Green said.

In the meantime, the Regional Chamber is working with its economic development partners to convince GM to assign new product to the plant. Dignan said chamber officials have already met with the incoming administration, including Governor-elect Mike DeWine, about the situation. Two days after the new state leaders are inaugurated, they’ll meet with General Motors leadership to discuss the plant here.

“Our role is to make sure our state and regional partners are talking about this, why it’s important and what the state can do to help,” Dignan said.

Between now and the final decision regarding GM Lordstown’s fate, Green said, the local will be working with its members and helping them figure out what to do next. Just before Christmas, more than 350 union members received offers to relocate.

“For some people, it’s right and it’s a good move to go start a new life. But other people have parents or kids or a spouse that works,” he said. “Everyone’s in a different situation and that’s why it’s so important for everyone to talk to the important people in their lives before they make this decision.”

Pictured: Lordstown Energy Center plant manager Drew Schneider presents a check to the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s Guy Coviello to support the Drive It Home campaign.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.