LORDSTOWN, Ohio – The day before Vice President Mike Pence arrived at Lordstown Motors Co.’s factory to help unveil the company’s Endurance electric-powered pickup truck, Gov. Mike DeWine got an early look Wednesday.
Opting to avoid the crowds that would come with the visit of the vice president, DeWine toured the plant with Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns and other company leaders, as well as Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel.
Although they couldn’t talk about what they saw inside, DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said they expect a positive reaction, both for the unveiling and when the Endurance hits the market early next year.
“[First Lady Fran DeWine] comes from a family of contractors and builders and I think we can see her brothers in one of these trucks with all their equipment,” the governor said. “It’s going to be very exciting when people see it. This is an important day for the Mahoning Valley and the state of Ohio.”
DeWine and Husted’s path to Wednesday’s press conference is one that started just weeks after they were elected in 2018. The Sunday before Thanksgiving that year, they got a call that General Motors would be closing three plants, including the Lordstown Assembly. Their first trip as governor- and lieutenant governor-elect was to Detroit for a meeting with GM leadership.
“We knew we had to have a plan. We had to find partners, so we worked with GM and had some great conversations with them over time, then Lordstown Motors came along,” Husted said. “We love the branding of ‘Voltage Valley’ we’ve seen in [the plant]. This has the potential to be a great future for the Mahoning Valley and Ohio. We want to be a leader in electric technologies.”
Being able to come into a plant that was already built and largely still equipped to produce vehicles – GM left its equipment in the plant when it vacated the site – allowed Lordstown Motors a head start that many competitors don’t have. Even when Tesla moved into a former Toyota plant in California, it had to rebuild the assembly lines.
“This is absolutely amazing, how fast this has happened. For people in the Mahoning Valley, it doesn’t seem fast enough but to think how fast this emerged and how many sales they’ve already made to fleets is phenomenal,” DeWine said. “To go from zero to 120 in such a short period of time is, frankly, amazing.”
Right now, Burns said, there are about 70 Lordstown Motors employees and 100 contractors, mostly working in engineering to convert the plant to build the Endurance after it sat unused since the final Chevrolet Cruze came off the production line March 5, 2019.
In the first wave of hiring, Burns said he expects to hire about 400 line workers.
“This was built for one thing: the volume production of automobiles. This place used to make about 400,000 Cruzes a year. Our goal is to exceed that,” he said. “They did it with 5,000 folks and that’s probably about the same we’ll need at the end.”
Already, Lordstown Motors has secured commitments from First Energy, ServPro, Momentum Groups and Florida-based Innervation for the purchase of a combined 3,350 Endurance trucks.
For a startup, Husted said, that bodes well for the economic multiplier that the plant generates.
“The more trucks they sell, the more prosperity will come. If you look at capital markets, they’re pumping money into this space. They’re competitive when they’re out there,” he said. “Getting this launched and ahead of the game, with the technology they have, will determine the big picture over time here.”
Pictured: Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine toured the Lordstown Motors plant Wednesday ahead of the company’s unveiling of its Endurance truck the next day.
Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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