Closing of Chevrolet plant is latest blow in a slow, painful decline in Lordstown an area that has suffered more than most from the outsourcing of jobs overseas
For years, the General Motors plant in Lordstown, Ohio, employed 8,000 workers in the Mahoning valley.
In a rust belt region that has become synonymous with industrial decline, following the closure of its once mighty steel mills in the 1970s, the presence of the Chevrolet factory in Lordstown, and its well-paid manufacturing jobs, was particularly important.
Then, late last year, GM abruptly shut the plant. The company had already scaled back workers at the Lordstown plant, and this closure saw 1,500 workers, the last of the once huge workforce, out of their jobs.
I think its devastating, said Mark Sweetwood, the managing editor of the Vindicator newspaper, which serves the Mahoning valley.
I think it was the last holdout of our industrial age.
The news was just the latest blow in a slow, painful decline in this area. The rust belt was a boom area at the start of the last century, but has suffered more than most from the outsourcing of jobs overseas. Stories of places like Lordstown abound in the midwest, and the angst and anger here is something Donald Trump was able to tap into in 2016 and that helped propel him into the White House.
The closing of the Lordstown factory came after GM said it would cut 14,700 jobs across four plants in the midwest and Canada. That announcement, in November 2018, was in stark contrast to Trumps election pledge to bring back auto jobs to the region.
Today the plant, which looms behind a Welcome to Lordstown sign at the entry to the village, stands as a testament to the hollowness of that promise. In mid-August it was possible to drive into the complex, where huge parking lots once full of new cars, but now completely empty, with brown weeds growing from cracks in the concrete stretch as far as the eye can see.
On one side of the factory was a huge sign declaring: Lordstown, home of the Cruze. The plant was clad in dull yellow corrugated metal panels, adding to a sense of gloom on a grey, drizzly day.
Lordstown is a small place, essentially a village with a gas station. Warren, five miles north, is more what one would traditionally think of as a town, with a main street, businesses and an impressive 19th-century county courthouse. Away from the pretty town center, however, some of the narrow roads are lined with abandoned homes, while buildings are in varying states of disrepair.
Its a far cry from the golden years of the 20th century, when the Mahoning valley was colloquially known as Steel valley as the steel industry boomed.