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Exciting times coming for ‘Voltage Valley’

It’s an exciting time for our area — nicknamed by some as “Voltage Valley.”

In recent weeks, Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill traveled to Michigan to take part in an event in which General Motors rolled out plans for 13 new electric vehicles in the next five years. The battery-cell production for these vehicles will take place — you guessed it — in our Valley.

The very next day, Lordstown Motors Corp., the new local manufacturer of electric pickup trucks, unveiled to area political leaders and media its new production facility in Lordstown. The company purchased and will retool the former GM plant in Lordstown.

During that event, Lordstown Motors Corp. CEO Steve Burns unveiled for the first time a video that he described as “proof of life,” showing the new electric truck, called the “Endurance,” traveling around a test track, through mud and over other rough terrain including hills and ruts. Burns, who was behind the wheel in the video-recorded test drive, is very excited and very positive about the truck’s manufacture and sales outlook.

Burns has made a commitment to Lordstown and our Valley. His company will start hiring local hourly workers as early as summer. Plans are to employ about 400 to start, but grow to at least 1,000.

The same week, General Motors officials also came to town to discuss their plans for construction of the new battery plant.

Then last week, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers held a “virtual” meeting to collect community input on the automaker’s request to build its new Lordstown battery plant.

During the online meeting, GM officials revealed that the main building for said planned battery-cell plant will be 2.5 million square feet with more than half considered a “clean room” with low humidity to assemble the cells properly.

In keeping with GM’s sustainability strategy and all-electric future, the automaker is looking for 100 percent renewable energy in plant operations, has a 100 percent plan for end-of-life battery recycling and is looking for ways to minimize waste by reusing parts of the material and processes, company officials said.

“In our location, you’re going to see really innovative processes using high-tech processes and tools, a green infrastructure that includes how we construct the building all the way through how it’s operated to be really the lowest number of resources used to operate the facility,” plant Manager Tom Gallagher said.

“And then how we are going to capture and reuse will be in line from how we produce the cell all the way through its production, and any kind of byproducts will be retained and recycled and reused where they can be,” Gallagher said.

It’s all extremely exciting!

Unfortunately, though, we still hear people in the community commiserating about General Motors ending production of the Chevrolet Cruze here. Others bemoan expectations that hourly wages at the new plants will be less than in past automaking jobs.

That is frustrating to us because we see the potential that’s developing.

All these developments put our Valley — “Voltage Valley” — on the ground level of the up-and-coming electric vehicle market. It is huge for our us and for all of Ohio, really, because it guarantees a local role in the bright future of this electric vehicle industry.

We all must remain focused and positive on new growth and development in our future.

All these projects are exciting. They all mean jobs for our Valley’s labor force, and they all guarantee a big role in the emerging new electric vehicle market.

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