At a rally outside Cleveland, Donald Trump tried to tie his dire message about an outsourcing economy to the venue at which he appeared.
"I want to thank Patrick Park and Ray Park, they own this building," Trump said in his introduction on Oct. 22 at the I-X Center, an exhibition hall near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in Brook Park, Ohio. "They do such a great job, it’s incredible and it’s an honor."
He professed fondness for Cleveland, and said, "In 17 days we are going to win the great state of Ohio, and we are going to win the White House. Together we’re going to deliver real change that once again puts America first."
Trump continued, "As an example, this used to be a great plant. Thousands and thousands of people worked here, and they left. So many people are leaving, so many people are closing their businesses and moving to Mexico and other countries. Not going to happen anymore, we’re going to tell you why, but not going to happen anymore."
We wanted to know whether one of the prime convention sites for Northeast Ohio was formerly a hoppin’ manufacturing plant. Here’s what history told us.
The I-X Center was originally built in 1942 for the U.S. Defense Department during World War II, according to Case Western Reserve University’s Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. It became known as the Cleveland Tank Plant or the Cleveland Bomber plant, and under General Motors it employed 15,000 people who built parts for the B-29 bomber.
The plant closed when the war ended, and the city of Cleveland retained it as an exhibition hall and sales center before leasing it to National Terminals for the storage of soybeans.
The facility resumed wartime service in 1950, when GM’s Cadillac Division chose it as the manufacturing site for Army tanks destined for battle in Korea. GM immediately employed 6,000 workers, but after two years of production, the Army rejected the Cadillac Tank Plant’s output due to a problem with the gun mechanism. After a redesign of the gun sight, the plant produced Walker Bulldog tanks used in the Korean war between 1953 and 1955. Production ceased on the Walker Bulldogs in 1959.
Cadillac won a new military contract in 1960 to build the self-propelled T195 and T196 howitzer tanks and M114 armored personnel carriers.
In 1965, GM shifted the management of the Cleveland Tank Plant to its Allison Division. It made M551 16-ton Sheridan tanks up to 1972, when the contract was completed and Congress decided against its renewal. The U.S. Defense Department sold the plant to the Park Corporation of Charleston, W.Va., in 1977, which opened it in 1985 as the I-X Center, calling it the "largest single-building exhibition facility in the world." Now, it appears to be the United States’ ninth-largest.
Nowhere in the building’s history does it appear that manufacturing was transferred overseas. Military contracts kept the site active for its first 30 years, interrupted by a period in which it stored soybeans. In 1985 it became an exhibition hall, the function it serves today.
The Trump campaign responded in disagreement with our findings.
"Mr. Trump used the history of the I-X center as a great manufacturing facility as an introduction to his hour long speech where he talked about issues impacting jobs in Northeast Ohio, and PolitiFact does its readers and its brand a disservice by running such misleading headlines and false ratings," said Seth Unger, the Trump campaign's Ohio spokesman.
Trump said that Cleveland’s I-X center was an example of a once-great plant, but "thousands and thousands of people worked here, and they left. So many people are leaving, so many people are closing their businesses and moving to Mexico and other countries."
Trump’s lamentation of outsourcing isn’t historically accurate. The I-X Center was alternately called the Cleveland Tank Plant, and GM’s Cadillac and Allison Divisions built military bombers, tanks and personnel carriers there between 1942 and 1972. Production stopped when a military contract expired and was not renewed. Once acquired by the Park Corporation, it opened as an exhibition space in 1985 and has operated as one ever since.