Opportunities are many in our region

It’s been only a few weeks since General Motors made its announcement to not allocate a new vehicle to the Lordstown complex after it halts Chevy Cruze production here in March, and we already are feeling the effects.

Last week we learned of just the first trickle of economic setbacks triggered by the GM decision when Mercy Health announced it is indefinitely delaying the possibility of building a massive new St. Joseph Warren Hospital in Howland’s Enterprise Park. While development was still very early in the planning stages, it brought the possibility of new construction jobs for our area’s skilled trades workers, coupled by the promise of new permanent jobs and the possibility of a proposed medical education center with partnerships between Mercy Health, Kent State University at Trumbull and Youngstown State University.

Instead, the area’s economic uncertainly triggered by the recent news of GM Lordstown was specifically outlined in the letter Mercy officials released Dec. 14 to the hospital’s employees and doctors, stating that the possibility of building in Enterprise Park would be placed on “indefinite hold.”

That, of course, is not even to mention the lost jobs that continue to be reported daily — beginning with more than a thousand jobs at the GM Lordstown complex, and now hundreds more either announced or expected at the area’s automotive suppliers.

Further trickle-down effects will be felt in the area’s retailers, service providers and many other businesses.

Sadly, a national Associated Press story out of Detroit published last week described GM’s plans to lay off 14,000 workers corporate-wide as possibly not “as bad as originally projected.” That assessment was based on the premise GM is now saying that 2,700 of the 3,300 U.S. factory jobs slated for elimination will be saved because displaced workers may to transfer to other GM factories where jobs are being added.

In what universe does GM believe that news should be viewed as positive?

Workers are being displaced, and in the cases where it is even slightly desirable for them to seek a transfer, it still will leave a massive structure vacant — at least in the short term — stopping the flow of income taxes and other financial stability in the Mahoning Valley and triggering the drastic trickle-down effect that we already are beginning to see.

Workers who do choose to relocate will be forced to decide between uprooting their families from their homes and schools or dividing their families.

The only good news that might arise from this announcement will be if GM changes its mind and allocates manufacture of a new vehicle to the Lordstown plant or if a new employer takes interest in this very marketable facility and opts to take it over, providing new opportunities for economic growth here.

Certainly, our Valley has been through similar hard times before, and we always have bounced back. We continue to be the home for countless hardworking men and women who stand ready to go to work in manufacturing. If those opportunities are not available, then many are prepared to be trained in new skills, still willing to demonstrate the work ethic for which Northeast Ohio is widely known.

We hope GM changes its mind and realizes the benefits of doing business here that would be lost should they pull out. In the meantime, we hope other employers realize the immense opportunities that are available here and come to take advantage.