This September the Chevy Cruze – produced in Lordstown Ohio – was the top selling car is the United States, outselling the Toyota Corolla by 2,500 cars.
Earlier this year Kasich cheered the success of the Cruze in his State of the State speech: “I’m writing right now an op-ed piece with the CEO of General Motors talking about Ohio and manufacturing in America. They have a continued commitment to Toledo, Defiance and, of course, Lordstown. Chevy Cruze, baby. It’s selling. And it’s working.”
While Kasich spent the months after his speech downplaying the importance of the auto industry in Ohio hoping to boost the chances of the Republican Senate and Presidential candidates, both of whom were running against champions of the auto bailout, we expect that to start changing soon.
As memories of the presidential election fade and 2014 approaches, Kasich will again begin embracing the success of GM in Lordstown to boost his own chances of reelection. At the same time, Kasich has been making plans to lease the Ohio Turnpike to private, likely-foreign investors. If implemented, Kasich’s plan – and the higher tolls and lower levels of maintenance that would result on the Turnpike – could have serious economic impacts on Ohio’s citizens and businesses including the Lordstown Plant.
Glenn Johnson, President of UAW Local 1112 which represents workers at the Lordstown Assembly Plant, called the Ohio Turnpike the “best maintained road in the state” and worried that a private operator would put “profits first”, possibly impacting the shipment of parts to the plant from around Ohio.
The plant’s 4,500 hourly and salaried employees rely on the Turnpike to get to work every day, and the road is a vital route for trucks moving parts and products into and out of the plant. It is so important to the local economy, and generates so much traffic on the Turnpike, that the Turnpike Commission actually installed two exists in Lordstown specifically for the GM facility.
Kasich won election in 2010 promising to get Ohio moving at “the speed of business” but this plan has the potential to negatively impact thousands of businesses throughout Ohio that rely on the well-maintained and cost-effective travel and shipping route provided by the Ohio Turnpike.< With the Turnpike lease, like most of Kasich's big ideas, the Governor seems only to have considered the benefits to himself: a large pile of one-time cash to spend on wooing voters for his reelection leaving Ohioans, and the small and large businesses that employ them, on the hook to pay for it.