General Motors’ announcement Monday that it will close its production facility in Lordstown triggered anger in a state where the bruises from automobile plant closings are still tender to the touch.
Both of Ohio’s senators – Democrat Sherrod Brown and Republican Rob Portman – blasted the decision and blamed GM for turning its back on Ohio workers.
“The workers at Lordstown are the best at what they do, and it’s clear once again that GM doesn’t respect them,” Brown said in a release. “Ohio taxpayers rescued GM, and it’s shameful that the company is now abandoning the Mahoning Valley and laying off workers right before the holidays.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement: “I am deeply frustrated with General Motors’ decision to shut down its Lordstown plant and disappointed with how the hardworking employees there have been treated throughout this process.”
It’s not clear how the decision will impact plants in the Dayton area. GM is a majority owner in the DMAX truck engine plant and is a major customer of Fuyao Glass America — companies that employ more than 3,000 employees combined in Moraine.
A GM spokeswoman said Monday there is no impact on DMAX from Monday’s announcement. The Dayton Daily News was unable to get a comment from Fuyao by press time.
In a statement Monday, General Motors said it plans to “realign” manufacturing capacity, which will save $4.5 billion but endanger plants in Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere.
“In the past four years, GM has refocused capital and resources to support the growth of its crossovers, SUVs and trucks, adding shifts and investing $6.6 billion in U.S. plants that have created or maintained 17,600 jobs,” the automaker said. “With changing customer preferences in the U.S. and in response to market-related volume declines in cars, future products will be allocated to fewer plants next year.”
The announcement, which could impact as many as 15,000 North American GM workers, also ignited a pitched debate over whether President Donald Trump’s trade policies are failing to deliver on his oft-stated promise to return well-paying manufacturing jobs to Ohio.
Although General Motors did not specifically cite steel and aluminum tariffs for its decision to close the plant in Lordstown, which makes the Chevrolet Cruze, the company has warned repeatedly during the past few months that the tariffs imposed on Canada and European Union by President Trump were increasing company costs by hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Donald Trump’s going to take the heat on this because he’s been so out in front about trade,” said David B. Cohen, a professor of political science at the University of Akron. “He’s the guy who said trade wars are easy to win.”
GM signaled earlier in the year that Lordstown might eventually close. The company in June announced it would build its rebooted Chevrolet Blazer in Mexico the same day it laid off 1,200 workers at Lordstown because of declining sales of the Cruze. The Lordstown plant currently employs about 1,600 people.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump on Monday said he told GM chief executive officer Mary Barra over the weekend that “they better damn well open a new plant” in Ohio very quickly.
“This country has done a lot for General Motors,” Trump told reporters before boarding Marine One en route to Mississippi to campaign for Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. “They better get back to Ohio and soon. So we have a lot of pressure on them. We have a lot of senators, and a lot of pressure. They say the Chevy Cruze is not selling well. I said, ‘Well get a car that is selling well and put it back in.’ I think you’ll see something else happen there.”
Portman said he understands the market no longer supports the Cruze but said GM could create more jobs at the Toledo powertrain and transmission plant.
“I’ve encouraged them to do two things. One is to make sure we are offering jobs to these GM workers at other facilities, including at the Toledo plant,” Portman said. “And I’ve encouraged them to expand what they’re doing at Toledo.”
Portman said he is also asking that GM consider making “some of its new electric vehicles” in Lordstown. “They’re really making a push on electric vehicles. They’re saying they’re going to introduce 20 all- electric vehicles around the world by 2023,” he said. “Well, 2023 is right around the corner.”
Gov. John Kasich said it was “painful to see this happen to the Lordstown workers, their families and the community. We’ll work with GM to see if anything can be done to preserve a future for the plant,” he said.
Gov.-elect Mike DeWine said he and incoming Lt. Gov. Jon Husted would visit the Detroit Auto Show in January “to make our case in-person to GM about the future of the Lordstown plant.”
The move comes just one year after Trump signed into law a 10-year, $1.5 trillion tax cut which included slashing the corporate income tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. The White House and many Republicans predicted the tax cut would unleash a wave of business investment that would spark the economy and increase wages.
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, whose congressional district includes workers from the Lordstown facility, called the GM decision “a bad combination of greedy corporations and policy makers with no understanding of economic development.”