DeWine: Keep Line Rolling at General Motors Plant in Lordstown
WARREN, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine’s message to General Motors CEO Mary Barra is direct: Ohio is ready and willing to put together an incentive package to keep the firm making vehicles at its plant in Lordstown.
But if General Motors continues with its intent to idle the facility in March, DeWine said he wants Barra to know Ohio wants another automobile manufacturer in the plant and is prepared to work with General Motors to accomplish that.
“I’m optimistic this is a very viable plant and if General Motors does not put a product there, put a new line there, I’m optimistic that another company can be found for there,” said DeWine, adding the preferred option is for General Motors to assign a new vehicle to the production facility.
“This is a good plant, we have great workers. We have a lot of things going for us as we work to resolve this as best we can,” DeWine said.
DeWine and Barra met privately for about 50 minutes Thursday at the General Motors’ headquarters in downtown Detroit, where the newly inaugurated Republican governor came Wednesday to attend the North American International Auto Show and meet with industry officials.
He returned to Ohio after meeting with Barra.
“I think she is open to working with us and expressed a desire to do that,” DeWine said after the meeting, which he classified as introductory and the first step toward establishing a line of communication between state and General Motors leaders.
The sides did not discuss specifics for what Ohio could do to convince GM to walk back its decision regarding Lordstown, but it was more that state officials wanted to impress on Barra “our willingness, desire to put a package together.”
Ohio also would be willing to package incentives to entice another automaker to the facility.
“This is a priority, this is important,” DeWine said by phone. “I fully understand what impact this is having on the Mahoning Valley and how important this is to the community.”
The Lordstown plant is among five in North America that General Motors intends to idle in March. A local effort — Drive It Home Ohio — is working to convince the automaker to reverse the decision and assign a new vehicle to the facility, which employs about 1,600 people.
The announcement in November from General Motors also included its plans to stop producing the Chevrolet Cruze, the brand’s No. 5 best selling vehicle in 2018.
Some members of the campaign, including members of United Auto Workers Local 1112 and economic development officials, attended the auto show Wednesday to show the support behind the effort.
Dave Green, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112, was one of them. He said Thursday he didn’t expect DeWine to leave the meeting with an assurance from Barra the local plant would stay open. The international union, he said, will make it a point to negotiate product allocation when contract talks begin later this year.
“A piece of the puzzle is making sure the state of Ohio is willing to sit at the table and do what they can,” Green said. “The fact the governor went there in his first week … I think that is huge, just one more piece of the puzzle to get us allocated work here.”
DeWine spent Wednesday meeting with industry representatives with a presence in Ohio.
“It was a productive day. I have found if you are serious about a relationship, serious about a discussion, you have to go and meet with people directly, look them in the eyes and have that discussion.” DeWine said.