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Ohio Mayor Hopes A Strike Will Lead To GM's Return

Sep 18, 2019
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AUDIE CORNISH: GM and the United Auto Workers union are still in contract negotiations on Day 3 of the auto workers strike, and that means work has stopped at more than 50 GM facilities. The GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio, has been quiet for months. It closed in March, and almost a thousand jobs disappeared. We spoke with Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill two weeks after the plant went dark.

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ARNO HILL: Right now, you know, everybody's in a state of limbo, wondering, should they take a transfer? Should they try to wait it out? The ripple effect is what's really pretty devastating for our area.

CORNISH: With the fate of Lordstown on the negotiating table, we wanted to check in again. Mayor Arno Hill, welcome back to the program.

HILL: Thank you very much, Audie. Glad to be here.

CORNISH: Can you describe how things have been in Lordstown since GM left?

HILL: It's been a little bit quieter - not a lot of truck traffic. You know, we do have a couple other projects going here in town. You know, we have a TJX Home Goods distribution center, about a million and a quarter square foot. But other than that, you know, we had a lot of residents take transfers. We have some who were kind of waiting it out, some who...

CORNISH: With that, did it bring other kinds of closures? I don't know if other kinds of stores or...

HILL: You know, Lordstown doesn't have a lot of business in here. We're still very rural. We had one restaurant close because, you know, you have to have foot traffic. We've had a couple other places which, you know, there for a while, it took a little bit of a downturn. But they said they're riding it out. They do see, you know, that there is a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully it's something GM-associated, but we do have other businesses which are looking. And we're keeping our fingers crossed that, you know, down the road we'll be OK.

CORNISH: When you talk about down the road and when you talk about something GM-connected, what would you like to happen? I know that Lordstown has come up in the conversation about negotiations.

HILL: I would love to see another product come in or...

CORNISH: From GM.

HILL: Well, with GM - you know, we would like to see another vehicle come in. But you know, we've been told that they do have overcapacity, and because they have overcapacity, you know, they made a business decision. It's been brought up we might get a battery plant. So we're kind of looking to see what options we have. You know, we're in a state of limbo. We're waiting to see what happens. And hopefully there'll be some sort of resolve, and hopefully we do get - still remain part of the General Motors family.

CORNISH: When we first got on the line, you joked I was reaching you on your village cellphone - just a reminder that you're very much in touch with the citizens in Lordstown. What are people saying to you?

HILL: You know, a lot of people said, we sure hope we do get a product. They are thankful that we do have other businesses which are looking our way. Naturally, GM has been the mainstay here for 53 years, and that's a pretty long run.

CORNISH: One more thing. Last time we spoke, you were hoping to meet with or talk to President Trump. He was near your town at the time, and he'd mentioned Lordstown in his tweets. Have you been able to talk to him yet?

HILL: No, I have not talked to him. I've talked to some of the governmental affairs people from the White House. I have not talked with the president yet. I'd love to.

CORNISH: If you got the chance, what would you want to say in this moment?

HILL: I would say, Mr. President, you know, I hope you can bring us some business, and hopefully you can work with General Motors, you know, just to keep the plant a viable option. You know, he said a long time ago - he said, we'd like, you know - don't sell your house. And you know, a lot of people don't want to leave. You know, we have a great cost of living here. We provide a lot of services in Lordstown, but it affects the entire Mahoning Valley. And I would say, you know, we'd like you to work with General Motors and help us secure our future. Until we find out what sort of resolve we have, we're kind of a wait-and-see mode, Audie.

CORNISH: That's Arno Hill, mayor of Lordstown, Ohio.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

HILL: OK - appreciate the call.

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