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'Economic lifeline of the whole valley': Ohio mayor says GM closures would cost about 10,000 jobs

Marina Peña
Production assistant

The General Motors Co. plant in Ohio, one of five GM closures, would cost “about 10,000 jobs total,” Jamael Tito Brown, the mayor of Youngstown, Ohio, told Market Movers.

“Across the Mahoning valley, it costs about 10,000 jobs total, which will affect not just Lordstown,” Brown said. “That will trickle down to places like Youngstown, Ohio, which we’re about 15 miles away from the plant. But it is an economic and a regional attraction for everyone to do business.”

Earlier this week, GM (GM) announced that it will cut up to 14,000 workers in North America and close up to five plants as the company abandons many of its car models and restructures to focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles.

The closure of the Lordstown plant itself in Trumbull County, Ohio, would cost 1,600 workers and 3,000 suppliers their jobs, according to Brown.

“That plant is the economic lifeline of the whole valley,” Lordstown Mayor Arno Hill told CBS. “When we lost steel, that plant carried us through.”

Brandon Depp, of Boardman, works on the Chevrolet Cobalt on the production line at a General Motors assembly plant Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008, in Lordstown, Ohio. (Photo: JAY LAPRETE/Bloomberg News)

‘Couldn’t believe our president would allow this to happen’

The move is the auto maker’s first significant downsizing since its bankruptcy last decade as the company strives to change in light of weak car sales. The GM closures will affect factories in Michigan, Ohio and Canada and is set to reduce the company’s costs by $4.5 billion by the end of 2020.

The reductions would affect about 8 percent of GM’s global workforce of 180,000 employees according to the Associated Press.

Back in August, Mayor Brown said he wrote President Trump about the Lordstown plant getting shut down but didn’t hear back. Trump has made bringing auto jobs back a big part of his appeal for re-election in Ohio and other Great Lakes states. And last summer, Trump told a rally near Lordstown that people shouldn’t sell their homes because the jobs are “all coming back.”

In an interview with CBS, Bobbi Marsh, a worker at the Lordstown plant since 2008 whose father has been there for 42 years, said he “couldn’t believe our president would allow this to happen.”

The president is trying to prevent the closures now. Trump criticized General Motors and threatened to reduce the company’s subsidies including the federal tax credit for GM’s electric vehicles.

“Very disappointed with General Motors and their CEO, Mary Barra, for closing plants in Ohio, Michigan and Maryland,” Trump said in a Twitter post. “Nothing being closed in Mexico & China. The U.S. saved General Motors, and this is the THANKS we get!”

The Mahoning Valley, also known as the Steel Valley, is an area of northeast Ohio that features Youngstown at its center. (Photo: Wikipedia)

‘We have that grit’ to survive GM closures

Despite the the plant shutting down and taking so many jobs with it, Mayor Brown said he is “optimistic right now.”

“Northeast Ohio, more specifically, Youngstown, and the Mahoning Valley, we’re competitive. We will take on any challenge that you give us, and we’re up to the challenge,” he added. “This place, the people here, we have that grit. We’re still a town community, and we have that grit to fight for whatever is right for us.”

At the same time, he recognized the seriousness of the situation for affected families.

“Think about it if I’m a GM worker, and I just bought a new home. Now that home, I’ve got to think about how I’m going to make this mortgage payment,” he said. “If I have kids who are in school, if I’m paying tuition whether it be at college and or maybe a private school, now I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to pay that tuition. The restaurants, the barbershops, the beauty shops, all will be affected.”

READ MORE: Trump has the GM problem backward