‘Drive It Home Ohio’ steered by optimism

The coalition trying to save the General Motors plant in Lordstown is called “Drive It Home Ohio.” Drive it did as the group ventured via bus to Columbus Wednesday.

Meeting with state lawmakers and top-level officials were over a dozen representatives of the coalition. This included elected officials from the region, along with economic development, social service and education officials. Some plant workers went to our state capitol. The Lordstown plant is scheduled for a March shutdown. It is one of five GM facilities scheduled for closure in North America.

Even if you — or a family member — do not work at Lordstown, the economic fallout will be staggering. It has been said that for every job lost at Lordstown another three or so outside jobs supported by the massive plant will be lost such as nearby businesses and regional parts suppliers. It has already happened with small businesses being shuttered around the plant located in Trumbull County. Think of a dollars and cents blow even something like a corner deli near the plant would take.

The Lordstown School District will get nailed. Surely it will tax-wise. Also consider the many children of GM workers who may end up moving out of the area. Enrollment will dwindle.

Terry Armstrong, superintendent of Lordstown Local School District, felt it was important enough to be part of the group. He drove himself Wednesday. “I think it’s important our state legislators know the schools will be highly impacted,” he said. “Not just Lordstown, but everybody, and I know the impact it is going to have for us. I know all schools in our area will be impacted.”

Armstrong estimates about 15 percent of students in the district have a parent either employed at the plant or a feeder plant like Lordstown Seating Systems, which makes the seats for the Chevrolet Cruze.

“GM is in our town. We probably don’t have the most number of people because we are such a small district, but we have a large percentage of our kids whose parents work there,” said Armstrong. “It’s a big impact to our kids, not just for academics, but also social and emotional to go through this.”

The meetings included Republican Lt. Gov. Jon Husted; the chief of staff for Senate President Larry Obhof, a Republican, and House Speaker, Republican Larry Householder; and Democrat Emilia Sykes, House Minority leader. None lasted longer than 20 minutes.

The group was presented a resolution of support by Ohio Sens. Michael Rulli, R-Salem and Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta.

Obviously, all elected officials are behind a Lordstown resuscitation effort. That is what they are in office to do: serve their people. Do what is best for communities. The hope is that the plant can ultimately be refitted and retooled for assembly of another product. Maybe electric vehicles down the road?

Coincidentally on the same day the coalition met with officials about impending GM job losses it was announced that Google plans to build a $600 million data center in New Albany.

Think of the jobs created while that center is being constructed and then up-and-operating. That small but thriving city is about the size of Salem and is located just northeast of Columbus. The New Albany International Business District covers 4,000 acres with 2019 expansion in the works. The development will be just one of multiple data centers developed in central Ohio. The obvious economic incentives are there: available land for zoning and tax relief. Critical is having a nearby freeway system and the availability of having a major city such as Columbus nearby. Yes, for sure Ohio certainly supports and sustains large investments. It can be done and is being done throughout our state.

Which makes the Lordstown situation all the more tragic. Right now the best any of those directly affected can hope for is that some kind of economic salvation emerges. The Lordstown closing is a huge blow to our entire region and we should all be paying attention. Efforts by “Drive It Home Ohio” proves the closure isn’t due to want of trying. Those involved have to remain optimistic, steadfast and aggressive.