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article imageRust Belt region looks at becoming nation's electric vehicle hub

By Karen Graham     Dec 26, 2019 in Technology
Youngstown, Ohio doesn't want the closing of GM's assembly plant to add to the memories associated with the term used to describe the region as the "Rust Belt." They are planning on becoming a technology and production hub for electric vehicles.
The term, "Rust Belt" refers to the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Many of the factories and steel mills in this region produced the "American economic miracle" during and after World War II.
But during the 1970s, these same factories began padlocking their gates. This was more than just a downward trend in the business cycle. It was was a structural crisis brought about by aging and out-of-date factories, a decline in the manufacturing sector and increased global competition.
This period in American manufacturing history had far-reaching effects, literally becoming a social and economic crisis. However, by the mid-1980s, many major automotive and steel companies retooled their manufacturing methods, making them innovative and progressive.
The Chevrolet Cruze is General Motors  top selling car in North America.
The Chevrolet Cruze is General Motors' top selling car in North America.
General Motors
The phrase became synonymous with an industrial decline in the once-dominant U.S. heavy manufacturing and steel industries. And with global competition and the economic situation in auto manufacturing today, it is easy to see why Youngstown does not want the term "Rust Belt" being revived.
Carving out a new economy
Community leaders have an ambitious plan to become a research and production hub for electric vehicles - mixing its industrial past with the emerging technology that is the future.
In early November, startup automaker Lordstown Motors announced it had purchased the General Motors assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio for an undisclosed sum. The company intends to manufacture electric trucks in Lordstown, starting in 2020.
The US steel industry has continued to struggle  despite the tariffs Trump imposed on imports
The US steel industry has continued to struggle, despite the tariffs Trump imposed on imports
In early December, General Motors announced it will form a joint venture with LG Chem, and hire more than 1,100 people at a new plant that it says will be among the largest electric vehicle battery cell factories in the world. Groundbreaking is expected to take place at a greenfield manufacturing site in the Lordstown area in 2020.
Fierce competition
Youngstown knows it will face some stiff competition from the likes of Detroit, Silicon Valley, and China - all in line to become centers for electric and autonomous vehicles.
The world is at the cusp of the electrical vehicle transformation, and we know it will take fewer workers and factories to make vehicles that require fewer parts.
Final Chevrolet Cruze in LS trim rolls of the line at GM Lordstown Assembly Plant in Warren  Ohio on...
Final Chevrolet Cruze in LS trim rolls of the line at GM Lordstown Assembly Plant in Warren, Ohio on Wednesday, March 06, 2019.
© GM Media / Roger Mastroianni
The Associated Press writes that U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat who represents the Youngstown area, thinks Youngstown is the perfect area for the development of electric vehicles.
“For a long time in our community, we were chasing smokestacks, chasing things that were on the decline,” he said. “We’re starting to move in a good direction.”
Youngstown already is home to an electric battery testing lab and business incubators that focus on energy and 3-D printing innovation technologies. Youngstown State University is building an advanced manufacturing technology center and wants to take part in training workers for the EV industry.
“We want to take charge of our future. An opportunity like this really plays to our regional strengths,” said Mike Hripko, the university’s associate vice president for economic development and government relations.
Ambitious goals, yes, to be sure. But America is a country with resilience and a "Can do" attitude. It is now up to Youngstown to determine its fate and the future.
More about rust belt, Youngstown, economic development, Transition, electric vehicles
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