General Motors has a long, rich and decidedly uneven history in Trumbull County, Ohio. The massive assembly plant it opened in 1966 in Lordstown was one of the domestic auto industry’s first geared solely to producing compact cars. It was tasked with building the crucially important Chevrolet Vega subcompact, but an assembly line speedup led to a bitter national strike against GM in 1972. We all know how the Vega turned out. I have a good friend whose father was then a GM worker and who described his family being forced to live on grilled Spam during the yearlong walkout. Skidding sales of compacts led GM to shut down Lordstown Assembly in 2019 after its final vehicle, a Chevrolet Cruze LS, came down the line. The main plant has been taken over by Lordstown Motors, a startup that plans to build EVs. Elsewhere on the property, GM is making its own moves in that orbit.
This past week, ironworkers at the Lordstown site bolted in the final beam during a “topping out” ceremony for the new plant that’s going up, in which GM and LG Chem will team up to produce battery cells under their joint venture, Ultium Cells LLC. The partners are investing $2.3 billion to build what will ultimately be a 2.8 million-square-foot assembly and shipping operation.When completed next year, the plant will cover the equivalent area of 30 football fields and will have the capacity to produce batteries with the combined capacity of 30 gigawatt hours, with room to expand. Given the Youngstown region’s recent economic history, it’s encouraging to know that GM and LG Chem envision that the Lordstown project will create 1,100 new green-technology jobs in northeastern Ohio.