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Lordstown leaders cautiously optimistic about new company in talks to buy GM plant

Posted at 4:24 PM, May 08, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-08 18:19:30-04

LORDSTOWN, Ohio — The mayor of Lordstown and the superintendent of Lordstown Local Schools are cautiously optimistic about the announcement Wednesday that General Motors is in talks with another company about the future of the Lordstown plant.

The announcement comes with a lot of questions about what the potential deal could look like.

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"We don’t know the employment numbers," Mayor Arno Hill said. "We don’t know what the wages will be. We don’t know what they’ll be requesting from the village in return for coming in."

Right now, those unknowns are keeping leaders in Lordstown grounded and realistic. General Motors wrote in a press release on Wednesday that it was in discussions with a company called Workhorse Group Inc., which is based outside of Cincinnati, and "an affiliated, newly formed entity to sell the company's Lordstown Complex in Lordstown, Ohio."

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"The move has the potential to bring significant production and electric vehicle assembly jobs to the plant," the company wrote in the press release.

Right now, the mayor said the village doesn't know many details, including whether GM would partner with this new company or simply sell the plant outright.

"I guess this’ll be about the second best thing," Hill said. "Ideally, we’d like to keep General Motors here, you know, keep our local GM employees working. But if it looks like we’re not going to be a part of the GM family, [I'm] glad to see there is interest in that plant, and we’re hoping for the best."

For Terry Armstrong, the superintendent of Lordstown Local Schools, this could mean some families in the district don't have to leave the area after all.

"I think everybody’s just waiting and seeing," Armstrong said. "We all want to get our hopes up, but we don’t want to get them up too high. We don’t want to see everybody having to leave. We’ve already lost a lot of families."

Armstrong said the district is expecting about 25 to 30 students to leave at the end of the school year, but that number could be as high as 50 to 70 students, which would be 10 to 14 percent of the student population in the district.

"So we’re hoping the ones who haven’t left, that this will result in them staying," Armstrong said. "That’s all of our hope right now."

The village is deeply intertwined with the GM plant, Armstrong said.

"General Motors [is] a big part of the culture here in Lordstown and the Mahoning Valley," Armstrong said. "We have two buildings that were built in 1976 with no debt and that was because of General Motors paying so much in taxes at that point. So the legacy will always be here. We just hope the jobs remain here."

Hill and Armstrong each said separately that the best scenario would be for GM to put a new product in the Lordstown plant and retain the jobs that are still there. However, both said a new company could also be a good option.

"I think people will be glad to know that the plant will, should, have an occupant and bring some jobs to the [Mahoning] Valley," Hill said. "You know, it’s about the jobs. It’s about keeping people here."

In a statement from the vice president of the United Auto Workers, the union wrote, in part: "General Motors should assign a product to the Lordstown facility and continue operating it."