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Northeast Ohio’s Economy in the Post-Industrial Age

GM’s decision to end production at the Lordstown Plant has been the recent topic of discussion at local, state, and national levels. Elected officials and business leaders are working to mitigate the effects that the closure will have on local workers and Northeast Ohio’s economy.

The Lordstown Plant was built in 1966, providing stable employment to residents of the Mahoning Valley during America’s peak manufacturing years. After decades of job cuts, the Lordstown Plant—home of the Chevy Cruze—closed in March 2019, laying off more than 1,400 workers. Lordstown is just one of four North American plants that GM is closing, resulting in the loss of more than 8,000 salaried and contract employees.

President Trump recently announced via Twitter that Workhorse, a Cincinnati company that manufactures electric trucks, intends on purchasing the Lordstown Plant from GM. Governor DeWine reported that the purchase could create hundreds of jobs in the area, with the potential to expand over time. DeWine stated, “it would appear that with this company that there is potential for growth and maybe significant potential for growth, which is what we want.” In addition, GM CEO Mary Barra told Governor DeWine that GM plans to invest in the state by creating 450 jobs across three separate Ohio plants.

Senator Sherrod Brown has adamantly voiced his opposition to the closure of the Lordstown Plant and voices his concern regarding the sale to Workhorse; “It’s still too early to tell whether the proposed sale of Lordstown is good news for workers there. Workhorse is a leader in electric vehicle manufacturing, and we are proud to have them call Ohio home, but GM cannot shirk its responsibility to these workers.”

The United Auto Worker’s local union has sued over the Lordstown closure, claiming that GM is in violation of its contract. Vice President of the UAW union local, Tim O’Hara, claims that workers were hoping to negotiate a new GM product be manufactured at Lordstown. Across the four U.S. plants that are closing, 1,350 workers have accepted transfers by GM. Those who do not transfer are now faced with harsh economic realities and limited opportunity in Northeast Ohio’s shrinking manufacturing sector.

Ohio’s congressional delegation is currently urging the U.S. Department of Defense to build the East Coast Missile Defense site at Camp James A. Garfield in Ravenna, Ohio.  The site’s construction would create 2,300 jobs, employing 850 directly and 340 indirectly once operational. The delegation estimates that the site would generate $244 million during construction and $27 million annually.

Advocates for the placement argue that Northeast Ohio has the necessary workforce and infrastructure to accommodate for the Missile Defense site. The delegation’s letter to Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan claims that the Camp Garfield pick would “represent a new and exciting chapter not only for Camp Garfield but for the region in which the Camp is located.”

The closing of the Lordstown Plant leaves many Ohioans in the area struggling to find new employment opportunities. The construction of the East Coast Missile Defense site, or the success of Workhorse, could potentially help to fill the hole left in the Rust Belt after GM leaves. Despite the struggles that Northeast Ohioans are facing in the post-industrial era, it seems that elected officials at all levels are committed to finding solutions to help those who are most affected by these economic changes.

 

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