In a rare meeting on Wednesday, commissioners from Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties were all in one room. They met to talk about passing resolutions in support of the General Motors Lordstown plant.
“What are we going to do and how are we going to make this happen?” asked Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda.
The three Democratic commissioners from Mahoning and Trumbull counties were at the meeting, and Columbiana County was represented by Republican Mike Halleck. State Representative-elect Don Manning — also a Republican — was there, too.
Each of the commissioners was given a cover letter and sample resolution. It’s hoped that each of their boards will pass it.
The cover letter is directed to President Trump, Governor John Kasich and Governor-elect Mike DeWine. A copy will also be sent to GM CEO Mary Barra, along with the company’s board of directors:
Dear President Trump, Governor Kasich and Governor-Elect DeWine,
The Trumbull County and Mahoning County Boards of Commissioners represent united communities in Youngstown-Warren region, once home to the second-largest steel producing region in the world. The area we refer to collectively as the Mahoning Valley has overcome economic challenges since the fall of the steel industry more than 40 years ago with hard work and determination in diversifying our economy and rebuilding our community.
We are again ready to respond as we face the potential closure of the General Motors Lordstown Complex. Through our community’s recently launched “Drive it Home Ohio” campaign, we have created a public-private partnership that is dedicated to future possibilities, whether those include a new product at the plant or repurposing the facility for an alternative use. Today, the Lordstown Complex offers many amenities, including a talented workforce, prime geographical location, utilities and many other necessary components for development.
As our local business, community and elected leaders work diligently to ensure a positive outcome for the Youngstown-Warren region, we are also asking for your assistance in responding to this situation. Our hope is federal and state incentives may be offered to General Motors to support our local effort that aims to induce investment in a new product line or assist the community in repurposing the facility for redevelopment and job creation. Something good will come of our efforts; something great will emerge with your assistance.”
“We’ve got to find out what they want and then figure out how to get it to them,” said Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka.
“When there was a thousand people at that time in our county that depended upon this plant for a job, that’s all they cared about and that’s all we should be caring about,” Halleck said.
“There needs to be some contact, some of the strengths of the board of General Motors,” said Trumbull County Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa.
He suggested a specific agency or person take the lead in the effort to keep GM. Jim Tressel’s name was mentioned.
“Somebody, either a person or an agency, that can sort of bridge that gap for these communities that we serve,” Cantalamessa said.
Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said she asked the nine counties in the Northeast Ohio Regional Commissioners Association to also pass resolutions supporting Lordstown.
“If we’re going to get on a regional platform, this is the only way we’re going to be able to work. And that’s by numbers and there’s a lot of us.”
“I was wondering if anyone has reached out to Jay Williams, who was the car czar,” Manning said.
Commissioners told him yes, Williams has been contacted and there may be a meeting with him over the holidays.
Everyone agreed that keeping the Lordstown plant running is non-partisan.
“There’s no Democrat or Republican way when it comes to some guy making his mortgage or sending a kid to school,” Polivka said.
But there was some good-natured ribbing between Democrat Polivka and Republican Halleck.
“We’re going to adopt you as a Democrat in the Mahoning Valley,” Polivka said to Halleck. “I’m going to get your soul saved if you don’t behave yourself.”
The commissioners also talked about possibly making a trip to Detroit, where they would try to talk with Barra or someone with GM.
Halleck mentioned the possibility of repurposing the Lordstown plant — doing something other than making cars. Cantalamessa thought it was premature for something like that. At this point, Cantalamessa said they should focus on GM and making vehicles.