DeWine: GM talking to other companies about Lordstown plant

LORDSTOWN — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine sent a varied message to the Mahoning Valley this week when discussing the idled Lordstown General Motors assembly plant.

Although he isn’t optimistic about GM bringing a new line of vehicles to Lordstown, he said he knows company officials are looking at other options for the sprawling 6.2-million-square-foot facility.

“It’s clear to me that they’re looking at not putting a new line” of vehicles in the plant, said DeWine, who was in Youngstown Tuesday talking with drug court personnel in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

Instead, DeWine said GM indicated it has been in talks with one or more other companies about taking over the site for another use.

Employing more than 4,000 workers two years ago, GM last week eliminated the final 1,700 positions at the factory when the final Chevy Cruze rolled off the line. GM announced in November it was placing Lordstown, and four other North American plants, on “unallocated” status this year and eliminating production of the Cruze. Lordstown was the first plant to idle as part of a company-wide restructuring.

GM has not announced whether it will permanently close Lordstown, which opened in 1966 and produced 16 million vehicles, including about 1.9 million of the now-eliminated Cruze.

Daniel Flores, GM spokesman, said last week, “The facility will be kept in a state of readiness because of its unallocated status.” About 200 employees will remain working inside the plant for a few weeks to keep making hoods, doors and fenders for service parts.

The plant’s fate will be decided during contract negotiations later this year. Plants closing in the U.S. still must be negotiated with the United Auto Workers later this summer.

Political leaders in the state, along with union officials and workers, are leading a campaign to save the Lordstown plant, lobbying the company’s top executives. President Donald Trump also has voiced support for bringing new work to the plant.

DeWine said GM has not told Ohio officials its plans to use the factory in the future or revealed what other companies it has talked with about the site.

“My focus is to do everything to get jobs back in that plant, understanding that our hands are really tied until there is some movement from General Motors,” he said.

GM might let the state know more in four to six weeks, DeWine said.

“At some point, if we’re going to help, we have to be involved. The sooner we can be involved, the earlier we can start helping,” he said.

A total of 411 Lordstown employees who volunteered to transfer have been placed in jobs elsewhere so far. That is in addition to the 297 who left after the second production shift went away in June.

The last day for two other U.S. plants is May 3 for the Baltimore Operations transmission plant in White Marsh, Md., and Aug. 1 for the Warren Transmission Plant in Warren, Mich.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.