On Wednesday, General Motors announced it was "in discussions" to sell its dormant Lordstown auto plant to Workhorse Group, a Cincinnati company that specializes in electric vehicles.
The announcement came after President Donald Trump tweeted about a conversation he had with GM CEO Mary Barra, stating that the deal was essentially done "subject to a UAW agreement." Officials have since downplayed the president's claims, saying no deal has been finalized as of yet.
The news sparked a wide range of reactions, especially from local politicians who have joined Trump in criticizing GM's decision to shut down the plant in the first place. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (whom Trump lauded in his tweet) held a press conference to say "this is probably not the day to celebrate," adding the best way for the deal to work would be for Workhorse to get a contract in place with the U.S. Post Office.
"This is a step, but we have a long way to go," he said. "We're going to do everything we can..."
U.S. Rep. and Democratic presidential candidate Tim Ryan, whose district represents Lordstown, called the news "bittersweet," seeing as GM is likely now leaving the facility for good and former workers will still have to find new jobs in the short term. However, he did say the project has the potential to be a long term positive.
"Fortunately, something panned out," he told reporters. "We just all have to hope this goes through and then work really hard to try to grow this company, if the deal goes down."
Rep. Ryan later stated:
"This deal, should it be approved, could be very positive for the Mahoning Valley. As I’ve stated before, I worked as hard as possible to land another vehicle within the GM product line but that shouldn’t damper the excitement around the possibility of producing in the Mahoning Valley the nation’s first union-made, all-electric truck. The past couple years have been painful and heartbreaking for our community. We’ve seen thousands of good-paying jobs lost as the third, second and eventually last shift at GM Lordstown disappeared. While I remain positive for the Mahoning Valley’s long-term future, we are still picking up the pieces from a devastated local economy. But this proposed deal is much-needed and welcome news.
"Today, I had an encouraging conversation with the CEO of Workhorse and the founder of the new company attempting to acquire the Lordstown plant and I feel our goals and vision align very well. The manufacturing and assembly of these trucks could bring many direct and indirect jobs to our community and benefit our economy and environment as a whole. Virtually every expert acknowledges that electric vehicles are the future, and we need to be focused on making them here in the United States and northeast Ohio. The collaborations with additive manufacturing via America Makes, energy technologies via the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center, to our world-class universities and colleges, we have the resources and workforce that are second to none. I pledged my full support of federal resources should this deal be approved by all parties and I remain hopeful that we will someday restore full production at Lordstown’s plant."
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman tweeted he was "optimistic" about the news and later released the following statement:
"I just spoke with GM CEO Mary Barra who told me GM would invest an additional $700 million in Ohio at its Toledo, Parma and Moraine plants, which would create 450 new jobs. She also told me that GM, subject to the approval of the UAW, is in negotiations to sell the Lordstown plant to the Workhorse Group to make commercial electric trucks. I also spoke with Dave Green, UAW Local 1112 president, about the news. My message to GM all along has been either to bring a new GM vehicle to the plant or to find a partner that will use this world-class facility so people can get back to work. I look forward to hearing more from Workhorse about its plans to bring jobs to Lordstown, and I’m hopeful that this news will benefit the workers there. I want to thank President Trump for his help in finding a positive solution for Lordstown. I will continue to work with GM, the UAW, and other key stakeholders on this matter in the coming weeks and months."
In a conference call with reporters prior to GM's official statement, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown also said he was "hopeful," but cautioned against raising expectations without "concrete details." In a later written statement, he said:
"GM’s decision to invest in facilities across the state is a testament to the Ohio workers and we welcome this news for Toledo, Parma and Moraine. 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. My number one job is always to fight for the best possible outcome for Ohio workers, and that’s what I will continue to do as we learn more."
Michael Giovanni, who worked at the Lordstown plant for 25 years, tells WKYC an electric-vehicle manufacturer possibly buying the plant is not good news for him. He's on sick leave, but won't have a job to return to in Lordstown unless the plant is kept by GM or employed with UAW workers. If not, he says he will relocate to another GM job out of state.
"I got to stay with General Motors in order to finish my time with retirement," said Giovanni, who was years away from retirement before the plant closed. "It sounds good today, but can go down the tubes tomorrow."
Multiple WKYC viewers also commented on our Facebook page. Opinions were decidedly mixed:
Jonathan Wise: "We will see. That’s all I’m going to say."
Mike Davisson: "They cut 14,000 jobs bring 450 back and they are praised why?"
Chuck Westlake: "After 10,000 lies we're supposed to believe him?"
Marty Hensley: "Workhorse sell like tens (tens as in not hundreds or thousands) of vehicles a year, I'm not thinking that is going to create very many of their low paying jobs in Lordstown."
Brian Noyb: "Thank you Mr. President!!"
Kat Walsh: "OMG People!!! This is great news!"
Terry Taylor: "Praise God for president Trump. Go President Trump... #Trump2020"