GM CEO offers little hope for new vehicle at Lordstown complex

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The future of the Lordstown General Motors complex didn’t get a boost coming out of the Detroit Auto Show with company CEO Mary Barra offering little hope that a new vehicle will be assigned here.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine met for about 45 minutes Thursday in Detroit with Barra and other GM executives but failed to get a commitment that the automaker will keep its Lordstown plant open after production of the Chevrolet Cruze ends in March.

The facility employs about 1,500 workers.

But DeWine, who was sworn in as governor Monday and traveled to Detroit, noted that Barra pledged to work with his administration regardless of what decision is made.

“My preference was she keep Lordstown open with a new product,” DeWine told The Vindicator Thursday. “We’re going to do absolutely everything we can to work with GM.”

While in Detroit, DeWine also met with Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill; James Dignan, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber; Dave Green, United Auto Workers Local 1112 union president; and others from the Valley who were there as part of the Drive It Home Ohio campaign to save the Lordstown plant.

DeWine said he reassured the Valley leaders that his administration will work closely with them on the future of the assembly complex in Lordstown.

Dignan and Green, on behalf of the Drive It Home Ohio campaign, sent a letter Thursday to Barra after her meeting with the governor.

The letter reads: “We thank you for meeting with Gov. Mike DeWine. The entire community has come together to work with General Motors to keep the Lordstown facility open. We have the hardest working, most productive people on the planet ready to help General Motors make the vehicles of the future.

“We have been part of the GM family for 53 years and we’re ready for the next 53 years. We are optimistic that the meeting between you and Gov. Mike DeWine will demonstrate the state’s commitment to a partnership that works for General Motors and keeps everyone working.

Saying they were hopeful of “ongoing conversation” between all parties, Dignan and Green noted the legacy between General Motors and the Valley.

“Through times good and bad, the Mahoning Valley has stood strong with General Motors and we are only asking for the opportunity to get up, go to work every day and help GM make the finest cars and trucks in the world.”

Meanwhile, Green will be U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s guest for the State of the Union address, which is supposed to be given Jan. 29, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has asked the president to postpone it.

“Dave will be representing the hundreds of laid-off GM Lordstown workers who deserve to be seen and heard,” said Ryan, of Howland, D-13th. “I thank him for his leadership, and I can’t imagine a better partner in this fight to save GM Lordstown.”

DeWine told The Vindicator that he stressed to Barra that his administration will work closely with GM, the labor unions and the leadership in the Mahoning Valley to “get the best resolution” for the future of the Lordstown plant.

He conceded, however, “I don’t know what the resolution is. I believe this is a very viable plant. I’m hopeful ... if GM doesn’t have another product we will get another company in there.”

DeWine said Barra and other GM officials said they were willing to work closely with his administration.

“That was my objective” in going to Detroit and meeting with the decision-makers, he said.

Barra’s refusal to signal what will happen to the 53-year-old Lordstown complex coincides with a story in the Detroit Free Press that is not good news for the Mahoning Valley.

The Free Press reported Thursday: “Barra offered little hope Wednesday night to employees at Detroit-Hamtramck and Lordstown assembly plants that new vehicles will be assigned to the plants to keep them running.”

The newspaper noted that when Barra was asked if the Detroit-Hamtramck or Lordstown could get one of the 20 new electric vehicles GM plans to bring to market in the next decade, she replied: “We have more products coming that we will build in the United States and we’ll provide opportunities. We need to make sure the capacity is up at other plants that we’re still working to improve.”

DeWine said he was aware of the story.

Also, there will be a candlelight vigil at 4:30 p.m. today in Detroit by UAW members from the four plants GM plans to idle this year.

Trumbull County commissioners will join Green and other local UAW members at the event.

Commissioner Dan Polivka said he hopes to meet today with Barra.

“I have talked with [my] fellow commissioners and we are in full support and willing to offer tax incentives” or “anything we can do to help [GM] have a change of heart either retrofitting for [a] new vehicle or a hybrid vehicle or electric,” Polivka said. “We are ready and willing to go the extra mile.”

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