May 12, 2020
When General Motors (GM) announced in March 2019 that it was shuttering its Lordstown Assembly Plant and laying off nearly 1,000 workers, it was a big blow to the local area. The 6 million-square-foot facility was a staple in the community, operating for more than 50 years and producing more than 16 million vehicles.
Many wondered how the area would survive without the plant, but Lordstown is shifting back into gear with an influx of new and innovative business ventures. And, Ohio Edison is playing a key role in the region’s development, working to ensure the local electric grid is ready for the additional load.
“Our line crews and company contractors are planning to refurbish an existing line, build a new substation, and enhance other infrastructure in the area,” said Mike Orban, Customer Account specialist, Ohio Edison. “Our goal is to make sure the new facilities have safe and reliable electric service when they are ready to start production.”
Utilizing part of the existing GM plant is a new company called Lordstown Motors Corp., which designs and manufactures electric vehicles. The company plans to produce the Endurance pickup truck at the facility, a battery-powered vehicle that has an electric motor in each wheel. FirstEnergy has signed a letter of intent to purchase some of these new trucks for its fleet.
Once up and running, Lordstown Motors expects to employee as many as 300 workers. While this is a great boost for the region, Mike said the bigger story is a new GM facility that is being constructed next door. The 3 million-square-foot factory – which is expected to bring approximately 1,000 jobs to the area – will produce electric vehicle batteries using a production technique that is new to the industry.
The plant is being built in conjunction with LG Chem, a Korean chemical company that provides innovative materials and solutions worldwide. The new facility is only phase one of the project – plans are already in the works to erect a second factory a few years down the road.
“We have been in close communication with GM representatives on the development of this plant,” said Mike. “They have an aggressive construction schedule, so we are making sure our project timeline allows them to start operations on day one.”
In addition, TJX Companies – which owns TJ Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods – is building a 1.2 million-square-foot distribution center that will produce an estimated 1,000 jobs. According to Customer Account Specialist Rheannon Dick, the facility will be TJX Companies’ largest distribution center in the country.
“You really have to see the building in person to appreciate its size,” said Rheannon. “Ohio Edison employees went above and beyond to ensure the success of this project, relocating electrical equipment and stringing conductor across the Ohio Turnpike for example. The folks at TJX Companies were wonderful to work with, and we expect their facility will be energized in about a month.”
Although the COVID-19 health emergency has slowed work on these developments, the future looks bright for Lordstown.
“These projects will have a direct economic impact on local businesses,” added Mike. “The initial development phase is creating hundreds of temporary construction jobs, and when the new facilities are up and running, workers will be eating at restaurants and supporting other stores. It’s nice to see Lordstown back in the driver’s seat.”