General Motors and LG Chem announced this week they would be opening a new battery plant in the Mahoning Valley region of Ohio, bringing 1,100 new jobs to the area and helping to cement the area as a hub for emerging electric vehicle technology.
The region was hit hard by GM’s decision to shutter the Lordstown Assembly plant, which resulted in around 1,700 people losing their jobs. Some of those employees took transfers to other GM plants, but those jobs sent them out of state, furthering the damage to the local economy.
Not surprisingly, local officials were delighted with this week’s GM/LG Chem announcement. Between the new battery plant and the sale of Lordstown Assembly to the newly established Lordstown Motor Company, the area is poised to recuperate a good degree of the manufacturing jobs that were lost when production of the Chevrolet Cruze ended.
“With this investment we will become the U.S., and then the world, leader in battery production manufacturing,” Ohio Senator Sean O’Brien told local CBS affiliate WKBN.
“This is an accelerated project; it is on the fast track to move forward,” he added.
“We have two global leading corporations who are partnering to create an amazing asset in the Mahoning Valley,” Ohio Rep. Gil Blair also said.
Local politicians are expecting to break ground on the new, $2.3-billion plant to begin in April. The plant will supply battery cells for a range of future GM electric vehicles, including its new battery-electric pickup truck. The truck is expected to go on sale in the fall of 2021, so the plant should be fully operational shortly before then.
The UAW had pushed GM to allocate a new product to Lordstown Assembly during the 2019 contract negotiations, but the automaker refused to budge on the matter. Instead, it committed to keeping Detroit-Hamtramck open, which will build the new electric pickup and a number of other large electric vehicles, sending the new battery plant to Ohio to keep the union happy.
Tim O’Hara, the president of UAW Local 1112, which represented workers at Lordstown Assembly, said he would have preferred GM invested the battery plant money into Lordstown Assembly, but added that the union is moving on from the matter.
“My initial reaction was I wish they would have invested the billion dollars into our existing GM plant, but having said that, that’s in the past now,” he told WKBN.
Workers at the battery plant will be unionized and are expected to be paid between $15 and $17 an hour. The average pay for a UAW worker employed directly by GM is about $31 an hour.