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GM bids to buy land for a new battery factory in Lordstown

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 15, 2020

General Motors wants to build a new battery factory in Lordstown, Ohio, right next door to its former car assembly plant, pictured here, that it shuttered and sold last year. (Jeff Swensen / Tribune News Service)
General Motors wants to build a new battery factory in Lordstown, Ohio, right next door to its former car assembly plant, pictured here, that it shuttered and sold last year. (Jeff Swensen / Tribune News Service)
By Jamie L. Lareau Detroit Free Press

General Motors wants to build a new battery factory in Lordstown, Ohio, right next door to its former car assembly plant that it shuttered and sold last year.

The automaker said it has a purchase agreement to buy a 158-acre vacant site in Trumbull County, Ohio. It is land GM once owned, but surrendered during its 2009 bankruptcy.

GM is also in discussions with Village of Lordstown leaders on incentives to build there and the automaker has filed permits with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to build on about 66 acres of wetlands located on the property, said GM spokesman Dan Flores.

“It’s the first of many steps,” said Flores. “It’s a big step forward and it gets us closer to making this project a reality. This will position the Mahoning Valley to be a major force in battery cell development.”

GM announced in December that it would partner with LG Chem to build batteries for electric vehicles. GM would build that battery factory at this site. GM has said the new battery plant will create 1,100 jobs after it’s built and operational.

GM hopes to close the purchase in the first quarter and start construction in the spring, Flores said. Flores declined to disclose the price it has agreed to pay for the property.

Late last year, GM announced it sold the 6.2-million square-foot Lordstown Assembly facility to Lordstown Motors Corp. after idling the plant last March.

This proposed site is near that Lordstown Motors property, but it is currently owned by NorthPoint Development, an industrial real estate development company in Riverside, Missouri, said Flores.

GM left the property behind with the “old” GM after the “new” GM emerged from bankruptcy about a decade ago. Flores said RACER Trust, which was created to sell or redevelop the old GM properties after bankruptcy, sold the land to NorthPoint in 2014. It’s sat vacant since.

GM closed on the deal to sell Lordstown on Dec. 5, records from the Trumbull County auditor show. The plant and adjoining five parcels of land sold for $20 million.

Since selling the idled plant to Lordstown Motors, GM has made a $40 million loan available to Lordstown Motors to help the start-up pay for the plant and start building electric trucks.

GM had built the Chevrolet Cruze subcompact car at the former Lordstown facility and the company relocated most of the 1,600 workers there to other GM jobs in different states.

The plant closing was part of an announcement GM made in November 2018 when the company said it would close four U.S. plants and end production of some of its sedans as customer preference shifted to SUVs and pickups.

Detroit Hamtramck was originally set to be one of those four, but during UAW contract talks, GM agreed to invest $3 billion in it to make it an electric truck plant.

Lordstown Motors said it will build the Endurance electric pickup using components licensed from Workhorse of suburban Cincinnati. The Endurance, which is expected to sell for about $50,000, is designed for fleet sales, the company said, and is a lightweight, all-wheel drive vehicle with a low center of gravity.

Lordstown Motors CEO Steve Burns told the Free Press that the new company wants to begin production by the end of next year and it will hire about 450 people initially. The workforce will be unionized.

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