How to Prevent the Next Lordstown

General Motors first broke ground in Lordstown, Ohio, 55 years ago and was once considered the most modern GM plant in the country. Thanks to a combination of business decisions by the company, tariffs implemented by the Trump administration, and a general dearth of innovative thinking the Lordstown Assembly is now set to close for good in January 2020.

From its first car, the Chevy Impala, to what now appears will be its last, the Chevy Cruze, the plant was known for its adaptability to ever-changing consumer demand. But with the announcement that GM is cutting 14,000 jobs across North America, including shuttering its Lordstown operations, adaptation has given way to extinction.

The ecological analogy is useful in more ways than one. The Trump administration’s tariffs on steel and aluminum have cost Ford and GM about $1 billion each. In any commercial ecosystem, when you raise the cost of inputs—a factory’s food source—the population declines.

Automakers, meanwhile, are looking ahead to trends in self-driving and electric vehicles. Yet rather than fostering that next stage in evolution, blunt trade restrictions and threats to revoke subsidies are the economic equivalent of wildlife conservation, treating the U.S. automotive sector as if it were an endangered species.

Public policy isn’t the only source of blame for the Lordstown closure, but it clearly hasn’t helped. Simply put, Washington, D.C., needs creative  policies to encourage genuine economic development. …

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