LORDSTOWN - Elaine Price remembers her late husband, the Rev. Grady Price, telling her four years ago that times were getting rough at the General Motors Co. Lordstown Complex due to a crumbling economy.
"For the first time in 34 years, he had to prepare us for a crisis," the Warren woman said Friday at President Barack Obama's Made in Ohio Auto Tour that ended outside the Magna Seating of America's plant.
Price and a couple dozen other auto workers credited Obama with rescuing GM and Chrysler with a cash and loan package that carried the companies through a quick bankruptcy reorganization in 2009 and saved tens of thousands of jobs, locally and nationally.
Highlights from Friday's Made in Ohio Auto Tour in Lordstown.
Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who is trying to take Obama's job this November, wouldn't have helped the ailing auto giants, the workers said.
"Romney urged let the auto companies go bankrupt," said Price, who serves as national campaign co-chair, and who was invited to the White House for a Christmas reception in December.
Romney previously has said GM and Chrysler should have reorganized in private bankruptcy, as other companies have done, instead of a government-led case.
Tribune Chronicle / Larry Ringler
Elaine Price speaks at the President Barack Obama campaign’s Made in Ohio Auto Tour that ended a statewide tour Friday at the Magna Seating plant in Lordstown. Joining her were GM workers and other supporters of Obama’s 2009 rescue of the auto industry.
Ending the Made in Ohio tour in Lordstown held special meaning for Price - her husband died a year ago today of respiratory failure at 63. That event made her even more grateful to Obama for saving GM and its 4,500 Lordstown workers.
"As a widow, GM has cared for me and my family," she said.
Union leaders echoed Price's praise for Obama.
Jim Graham, president of UAW Local 1112 at the Lordstown East assembly plant, noted the factory pumped $400 million to $500 million annually into the Mahoning Valley economy. It directly or indirectly helps support seven to 10 other jobs, he said.
He pointed out the government's ownership of GM has fallen to 26 percent in stock from 61 percent, and if GM's shares rise to $50, "the government makes a profit."
GM shares lost 19 cents Friday to close at $23.53.
Hundreds of other jobs at supplier companies like Magna also survived due to the rescue, Graham said, a fact echoed by Kevin Scott, Local 1112 shop chairman for Intier's 300-some union workers at the factory that makes seats for the popular Lordstown-built Chevrolet Cruze.
"We went from 302 workers to 100 on one shift, and it was a weak shift," the Warren resident said. "Now, we're over 300 on three shifts."
The rescue helped pump much-needed dollars into the local economy at restaurants and stores, he added.
Nationally, the auto industry has gained more than 230,000 jobs since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in the summer of 2009, tour organizers said.