GM suppliers in Ohio remain mostly upbeat
Posted November 28, 2018 2:12 p.m. EST
DAYTON, Ohio -- General Motors employs around 53,000 fewer Ohioans today than it did 20 years ago, but the automaker has maintained strong ties to this region even as it plans to close another factory in the Buckeye State.
But with that connection comes vulnerability. A trio of local GM suppliers -- DMAX and Fuyao Glass America in Moraine and Tenneco in Kettering -- have more than 3,000 employees combined. Navistar in Springfield has a truck-producing partnership with GM, and MAHLE Behr in Dayton, with about 1,600 employees, supplies North American automakers.
The Tenneco plant -- a plant which in October announced plans to expand, adding 300 jobs as part of a $61.5 million investment -- has supplied ride control components to a variety of models, including the Chevrolet Volt, a vehicle that was a casualty in the manufacturing realignment GM announced Monday.
GM's Detroit-Hamtramck factory produces the Volt, an electric car with a backup engine -- and that plant is slated for probable closure.
In all, five GM plants are slated for closure, including a plant in Oshawa Ontario, with more than 14,000 jobs nationally directly threatened.
A spokesman for Tenneco, Mike Alzamora, released a statement Tuesday saying the company's Kettering plant supplies parts to GM's Oshawa and Detroit-Hamtramck facilities.
"However, we expect the impact of GM's restructuring on our Kettering facility to be minimal," the statement said.
Alzamora said the Kettering plant today not does not supply ride control parts to the Lordstown plant.
According to Tenneco's 2016 annual report, GM is the company's biggest customer, accounting for 17 percent of Tenneco's business
A spokeswoman for the city of Kettering, Stacy Schweikhart, said city government had not heard from Tenneco.
"We have no reason to think that there's going to be an impact," she said.
But at least some suppliers across Ohio almost certainly will feel an impact, said Kristi Tanner, a managing director at JobsOhio, the state's private economic development corporation.
The Lordstown plant produced about 130,000 Cruze vehicles last year, she said.
"That's not a small number," Tanner said. "There certainly will be an impact on those suppliers who supply that facility."
Over the years, the Kettering Tenneco plant supplied shock absorbers and struts for models such as Chevrolet Camaro, Cruze, HHR and Volt, as well as the Buick Regal and LaCrosse.
GM is a 60 percent co-owner in the Dryden Road DMAX truck engine plant, which employs nearly 800 people. A GM spokeswoman said Monday GM's decisions will not affect DMAX.
Carl Kennebrew, president of the IUE-CWA union, which represents workers at Tenneco and DMAX, could not be reached.
Jim Clark, retired president of the IUE-CWA, deferred to Kennebrew. But Clark believes Tenneco is more diversified these days in its array of customers, which now include BMW among others.
"The news coming out of there is good," Clark said, referring to Tenneco.
Fuyao, a Chinese owned company, supplies safety auto glass sets to nearly all domestic automakers.
A Fuyao spokeswoman declined to comment. That company employs about 2,300 workers in the drastically reshaped shell of the former GM-Moraine SUV assembly plant, a plant that was producing the Chevrolet TrailBlazer when GM shut it down in December 2008.
Mike Davis, development director for the city of Moraine, said leaders of Fuyao are taking stock of the situation.
"Even with their (Fuyao's) growth, I inquired, as this popped into my mind as well," Davis said. "They (Fuyao) will know after they do more diligence and collect data."
Davis said he believes DMAX is doing well and that no impact there will be "noticeable."
A message seeking comment was also sent to a human resources officer at the MAHLE Behr plant in Dayton, which supplies thermal control components to domestic automakers.
An important sector
Tanner said she and others with JobsOhio spoke with GM officials Sunday, before GM announced its plans. By that point, though, the decision had been made.
"It wasn't a matter of incentives," Tanner said.
The realignment GM announced is wide-ranging and affects much more than just Lordstown and the Cruze, Tanner noted. But she said at this point, there is no product GM can allocate to the Lordstown plant.
"It is not a permanent closure at this point -- the permanent disposition of the facility won't be determined until some point in the future," Tanner said.
The automotive sector is still important to Ohio. The industry has more than 108,000 Ohio workers and contributes about $14.5 billion to the state economy.
And the sector is widespread -- about 80 of Ohio's 88 counties have some kind of auto manufacturing business.
GM will have about 5,000 employees in the state when the Lordstown plant closes, less than half of Honda's approximately 13,000 employees.
The loss of the GM plant in Lordstown will not have as big of an impact on Ohio as it might have 10 or 20 years ago, said Jim Zahora, chairman of the board of the Dayton Region Manufacturers Association and a leader at GemCity Engineering.
In 1995, General Motors employed more than 63,000 people in Ohio but as of 2017, that number had declined to fewer than 10,000, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.
"It is a bummer. But, they can, as Dayton has shown, they can recover from this and start working on the future," Zahora said. "It is a blow to that region but they will survive."
The region, Zahora said, has tried to diversify its manufacturing industry so closures don't have as big of an impact. Though there are auto parts makers in the area, Zahora said the region's shift toward a diversity of manufacturing industries is key.
"We've diversified in manufacturing so we're not as reliant on the automotive industry," Zahora said. "Putting all your eggs in one basket is a risky way to run a business and it's a risky way to run a state."
Story Filed By Cox Newspapers
For Use By Clients of the New York Times News Service