DeWine criticized for ignoring GM Lordstown in key address

Gov. Mike DeWine took somewhat of a beating from the Mahoning Valley delegation to the General Assembly for his failure to make any mention of the Lordstown General Motors plant during his State of the State address.

DeWine, a Republican, explained to me during a Wednesday interview why he didn’t bring up the GM facility during the address.

“I talk about Lordstown a lot,” he said. “I was trying to talk about a legislative agenda. We’re doing everything we can and I’ve talked about it many, many times. I talk about Lordstown every day.”

DeWine delivered his first State of the State on Tuesday, the day before the GM plant went on “unallocated” status, a nice way of saying it’s closing and laying everyone off.

The economic and emotional impact the shutdown has on the Mahoning Valley is incredible.

When I first moved here in 1995, there were about 10,000 people working at the facility. It was down to about 1,500 during these final days.

But it remained a vital part of the area.

As The Vindicator reported Thursday, a study by Cleveland State University estimates the Lordstown GM shutdown will have a more than $3 billion impact on the region’s economy.

To make mention of what the state is doing to help with this issue during DeWine’s speech would have been a way to show his concern to all of Ohio, the legislators said.

“I wish he would have addressed the severity of the GM closing in our area,” said state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th. “It reverberates across the state. It affects so many people.”

State Rep. Michael O’Brien of Warren, D-64th, said he “was very disappointed that the governor never uttered a single word about General Motors. He never discussed the loss of manufacturing jobs in the Mahoning Valley or his goal to attract a company to replace those lost jobs. He never uttered ‘General Motors’ and that was very disappointing. It would have been the perfect opportunity and he chose to go down a different path.”

Also, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper wrote in response to my tweet about DeWine not mentioning Lordstown: “A telling omission. What good is an ‘opportunity zone’ or some new outfit called ‘Innovate Ohio’ when you don’t lift a finger or say not a word about an impending jobs catastrophe?”

As I mentioned above, I spoke Wednesday to DeWine about the Lordstown GM shutdown.

It should be noted how good it is to again have a governor who is responsive to the state’s media and actually leaves the Columbus area to see the rest of Ohio. DeWine was in Warren a few weeks ago and will be in Youngstown next week.

This was something sorely lacking during the previous eight years.

The state is in touch with GM officials a couple of times a week about Lordstown, DeWine said.

“We’ve been urging them to put a new line in there, and they’ve not given us any indication they are,” he said. “I get the impression they’re talking to a company or companies. We’d like to be helpful at the earliest stage we could. If there’s a company thinking of putting a line in there, we want to let them know we’ll be helpful to them through JobsOhio and incentives.”

GM tight-lipped

The state has asked GM about the possible companies interested in buying the Lordstown facility, but DeWine said the automaker is playing it close to the vest and not disclosing any information.

Although DeWine says it’s his belief that GM isn’t going to reopen the Lordstown facility, several other lawmakers are still holding out hope that the company will provide another product there.

I spoke to several of them who aren’t giving up hope that GM will place an electric vehicle at the Lordstown facility.

GM says it will produce 20 new electric vehicles by 2023.

We’ll have to see how all of this plays out, but GM hasn’t shown any commitment to retooling the Lordstown plant.