Year after last Chevy Cruze, Lordstown plant starting to see new life

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Lordstown Motors' CEO said his team wants to bring back at least some of those who used to work at GM

LORDSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Friday marks one year since the last Chevy Cruze rolled off the assembly line at GM Lordstown. Thursday, all eyes were on that facility again — but for a different reason.

Standing in front of giant metal presses General Motors installed half-a-dozen years ago to stamp parts for compact cars, Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns said his team wants to bring back at least some of those who used to work there.

“First and foremost, the people we’re going to look at first for production are people that used to work here in production and still live here. That’s the low-hanging fruit.”

But what about the hundreds of others who took GM jobs at other plants, leaving their loved ones behind?

“We think that’s the next tier,” Burns said.

Managers with Lordstown Motors offered tours of the shuttered assembly line and fabricating plants to reporters and elected leaders Thursday morning. Some of those areas have never been opened to outsiders.

When GM stopped production there a year ago, it left most of the machinery in good working order.

Executives said they’re already in the process of testing equipment GM left behind after the last of the Cruzes were built. Retooling of the plant should start early next month with new technology.

For those who grew up in GM households, the tour was an emotional trip back in time.

“I remember what it was like when I was a child, and seeing all the people and the robots, and going around the plant in a golf cart with glasses on and everything. It was chilling,” said Struthers Mayor Catherine Cercone Miller.

While some of the engineers and other supervisors for the new operation have already been hired, Burns said more than 400 will be brought in to handle assembly of the new Endurance pickups, as well as the battery packs and hub-motors to power them.

“We intend to train them right and we’re going to pay them while we train them. We’re not expecting them to come with these skills, right?”

Hiring for hourly workers is expected to start in July, with the first trucks produced for sale to roll off this retooled assembly line in December.

We don’t yet know whether the United Autoworkers will represent employees. Burns insists wages will be competitive with other plants around the country but the new company may not be able to offer similar benefits or retirement plans.

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