Vice President Mike Pence rode onto the stage Thursday in the newly-unveiled Lordstown Motors electric pickup truck, the Endurance, to deliver a wide-ranging speech to the Northeast Ohio crowd.
Among the topics he touched on at the former General Motors plant in Lordstown were the economy, the Trump administration’s negotiations with China and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“We fought for free and fair trade and the values and ideals that have always made this country great,” Pence said. “On every single promise, President Trump delivered for the people of Ohio.”
Pence also lauded Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns for purchasing the plant and keeping manufacturing jobs local.
“When this facility closed in March of 2019, it was heartbreaking for this community,” Pence said. “On May 8, the president was delighted to get the call. He called it great news for Ohio when Steve Burns bought this building and set into motion the plans to create Lordstown Motors.”
The name “Endurance” holds dual meaning, Burns said at the truck’s unveiling.
“It’s an electric truck and it goes very far on a charge, it’s a very tough truck and it’s built for people who need tough trucks. It can endure,” Burns said. “But the people of this valley have endured.”
The event also brought Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel, Goodyear Director of New Ventures Erin Spring and U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette to the Mahoning Valley.
“We were all excited when it was announced they were coming,” Tressel said. “We had no idea how quickly we would move to this day.”
Lordstown Motors already has about 70 employees, Burns said, and about 100 contractors are also working at the plant, most of them engineers, working to convert the plant for electric automobile assembly. The company will begin hiring more workers as it nears production, Burns said, with a goal of employing 400 line workers to start.
At the plant’s peak production in the 1990s, more than 10,500 GM employees were turning out about 400,000 Chevy Cruzes per year at the Lordstown plant, where the first Chevy Impala rolled off the line in 1966. The GM facility employed about 4,500 workers three years ago.
Lordstown Motors hopes to ultimately employ about 5,000 people at full production capacity, Burns said.
Not in attendance Thursday was Gov. Mike DeWine, who attended a Wednesday preview event at the Lordstown plant, accompanied by with his wife, Fran, and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted.
“Just absolutely amazing how fast this has happened,” DeWine said Wednesday. “No, I know for people in the Mahoning Valley it doesn't seem like it's happened fast enough, but to think how fast this has emerged.”
The closing of GM's Lordstown plant violated the terms of two state economic development agreements that the Big Three automaker signed more than a decade ago. But the state is not "actively seeking" to recover $60 million in public subsidies GM got for its Lordstown operations, DeWine said.
“What we are doing is having a very constructive discussion with General Motors about how we can turn that into things that are helpful to them, but also most important to us, to people in state of Ohio,” DeWine said, including other ways GM can create jobs in the state, he said.
Pence’s Thursday speech also briefly addressed the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and ongoing efforts to reopen the U.S. economy.
“I want you to know that it’s a testament to the resilience of the American people that, like here in Ohio and beyond, cases are stable and even declining,” Pence said. “And I want to say, the people of Ohio, and your Gov. Mike DeWine, have set a standard for the nation.”