GM facility, Valley are very marketable

The news about the end to local production of the Chevy Cruze, as United Auto Workers Local 1112 President Dave Green put it this week, felt like a “shot in the gut.”

The sting was harsh and the recovery will be slow.

Every one of our elected leaders from Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill clear up to President Donald Trump had some kind of reaction — some more productive than others.

Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, lashed out angrily, calling for a Ways and Means Committee investigation into how General Motors used tax breaks from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

While we understand Ryan’s desire to place blame, the fact is the tax breaks came with no ties. As a private company, frankly, GM has no obligation to report to anyone other than its shareholders how it spent money saved in taxes.

Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman promised to continue to press GM to provide new opportunities to Lordstown.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown accused the president of “pointing fingers” and prompted him, instead, to take action to head off the plant closures. Brown called for passage of his legislation to give customers a $3,500 discount on cars made in America.

Trump threatened to slash General Motors subsidies if they go forward with the planned closures.

Of all the reactions, however, perhaps the most logical came from U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, who sat down Tuesday and penned personal letters to the heads of 11 American-based major global automobile makers about the opportunity that now may exist in the Mahoning Valley.

Johnson called the Lordstown site a “ready-made facility in an excellent location … on the Ohio Turnpike.” He went on also to tout the “hardworking, well-trained” workforce here.

Johnson concluded his letter, sent to the American headquarters of Fiat Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru, Volkswagen AG, Kia, Hyundai, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, by welcoming the opportunity to discuss the opportunity.

This positive, no-nonsense approach is the most logical reaction we have seen so far among our elected leaders.

Indeed, marketing this massive 6.2-million-square-foot facility should be the focus right now.

Of course, no one wants to give up on GM’s local future yet, and we all sincerely hope an agreement can be reached that keeps the Detroit auto giant making quality vehicles here for years to come.

But given the current situation, we have little choice but to start plotting the very real possibility of a future without GM.

Johnson’s points about Lordstown’s assets are right on the mark. Sarah Boyarko, chief operating officer at the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber agrees.

Boyarko on Wednesday applauded Johnson for his proactive approach in sending out the letters to potential users of the facility. She also acknowledged there are behind-the-scenes conversations happening with potential manufacturers.

The facility, centrally located between Chicago and New York, has easy access to the Ohio Turnpike and several other major interstates, as well as rail service. The sprawling facility has operated for years as a complete auto-making facility, including a metal stamping plant, a paint shop and an assembly plant. Of course, it comes with a ready-made workforce and nearby supplier support. And if the plant is not to be taken over by just one operator, why not look at the very real possibility of a multi-company industrial park on the 905 acres of developed industrial property?

This complex’s location, buildings and workforce are very marketable to potential users. No matter what happens with General Motors, we must not lose sight of those many very desirable offerings that exist here.