WASHINGTON, D.C. – The day before traveling to Cleveland for his first presidential debate with Democratic nominee Joe Biden, President Donald Trump inspected the new “Endurance” electric pickup truck from Ohio’s Lordstown Motors outside the White House, claiming success for boosting the region’s economy after General Motors shuttered its plant that made the Chevrolet Cruze.
“We’ve been working on this very long and very hard,” Trump said on the White House South Lawn, where he examined the vehicle with Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, Dayton Republican Rep. Mike Turner and Trump’s manufacturing policy chief, Peter Navarro. “This is a really unique thing because the four wheels are — hub motor, hub motor — this is the only one that does this in the world. It has a lot of advantages.
“The area was devastated when General Motors moved out,” Trump continued. “Beyond the plant, it’s incredible what’s happened in the area. It’s booming now. It’s absolutely booming. … It’s an incredible piece of science, technology. It’s going to happen now with more and more trucks. And ultimately they say you’ll be able to do it for less money, and it’s better, which is a good combination.”
Portman described General Motors decision to stop producing the Cruze in Lordstown as a “gut-punch” to the Mahoning Valley, a key battleground in November’s presidential election, where Trump and Biden are both aggressively courting voters. He said Trump and his administration have been “very helpful in this effort to bring the jobs to the Mahoning Valley.”
Portman said that in addition to Lordstown Motors producing its truck on the premises of the old GM plant, GM and LG Chem have placed a new joint venture there to make electric vehicle batteries that will hire 1,100 people this year. He said the combination of the two plants will replace roughly the same amount of workers lost from closure of the larger GM plant.
Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns said the plant hopes to produce more than 100,000 of the trucks each year “once we get going,” and intends to come out with multiple models.
In a call with reporters after Trump’s White House event, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown disputed claims that Trump helped bring jobs to the region after the General Motors closure. He accused Trump of abandoning workers at Lordstown and not lifting “a finger to bring those jobs back” after telling workers in the area in 2016 not to sell their homes because he’d improve their economic fortunes if he became president.
Brown said that he himself worked to get Lordstown Motors and the battery plant into Ohio and got “little help from the White House.” He said the jobs from those new employers won’t come close to equalling what the GM plant and all the feeder plants that were part of the whole GM supply chain in the Mahoning Valley” added.
“We begged Trump to help – he did nothing,” said Brown. “We’ve heard mostly empty promises since then … While we welcome Lordstown Motors and the battery plant, i’s nothing close to what it should be and nothing close to what it would have been if the president stepped up three and four years ago.”
Several former Lordstown workers interviewed by cleveland.com disagreed with claims that Trump saved Lordstown. One of them is Dave Green, a former president of the United Auto Workers local that represented Lordstown’s workers who transferred to a plant in Indiana and now lives away from his family in Lordstown.
“For Trump to come in and take credit for anything going in there to me is pathetic,” said Green. “We wanted GM to put a product in there with the realization that if they don’t, something may come here.”
Brian Robinson, 61, of Austintown, who is now retired, said any claim by Trump that he saved Lordstown is an outright lie. He still lives in the Mahoning Valley, separated from his wife, who works for GM in Springville, Tenn.
“I know tons of people that supported him that regret it now,” said Robinson. “When your family is being torn apart and you’re forced to be in one place while your loved ones are in another, it’s got to make you question a lot of different things.”
Cleveland.com politics reporter Seth Richardson contributed to this report
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