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Local senators say they are 'more optimistic' after the Workhorse tour News, Sports, Jobs



Special to Tribune Chronicle
Workhorse CEO Duane Hughes, on the left, talks with the state of Sens. Mike Rulli, R-Salem, center and Sean O'Brien, D-Bazetta, on the right, during a tour of the company's headquarters in Cincinnati on Friday. The company is in the process of securing funding to build pickup trucks and electric fleet delivery trucks at the former General Motors Lordstown facility.

WARREN – State Sens. Sean O & # 39; Brien and Michael Rulli departed from a Friday tour of the Workhorse plant in Cincinnati "much more optimistic" about its potential future at the former General Motors Assembly facility in Lordstown than they were before several weeks ago, the senators said as they drove home.

O & # 39; Brien, D-Bazetta and Rulli, R-Salem, spent about four hours at the company's headquarters and had face time with Workhorse CEO Duane Hughes and the company's founder and former CEO Steve Burns, who hopes to buy GM plant to produce electric fleet pickup trucks.

Workhorse, which designs and manufactures delivery of fleet-style trucks, announced in June that it secured $ 25 million in new investment to meet truck demand. Not part of the announcement was that some of the money was used for GM Lordstown.

Workhorse is not the company to build vehicles in Lordstown, O'Brien said. The separate company, Lordstown Motors, will use Workhorse technology, and the best people will have come from Workhorse.

O'Brien and Rulli tested both the pickup truck and a prototype of the US Postal Service vehicle. They said the company already has 6,000 pre-orders for the electric pickups and is in negotiations to make mail carts for the UK and Australia as well.

"They are very good quality vehicles with great acceleration, and they are very economical," said O'Brien. "It was very reassuring to actually run them."

"The vehicles were amazing. They are cramped, attractive vehicles." Rulli said.

The price tag for an electric pickup is about $ 52,000 and they get about 130 miles per charge , according to O'Brien.

B & # 39; Brien said that Hughes and Burns stated that they are "on track" to secure funding and continue to seek financial support so they can begin building electric vehicles at the former GM plant, which went idle in March as part of a car manufacturer's restructuring plan.

"They assured us that they are still planning to build the electric pickups, even if they do not land The $ 6.3 billion post office contract, " B & # 39; Brien said.

He said Hughes and Burns also committed to using United Auto Workers employees if the company relocates its headquarters to Lordstown. [19659004] “Their vision for our area The Lord is Lordstown would be their new headquarters, so they need to hire engineers, suppliers and production staff. An announcement about the project could come soon. The timeline is fluid because of the UAW contract negotiations, " said O'Brien. "But they like the idea of ​​making this a plant in Ohio."

The contract between the Union and GM expires on September 14 and several lawsuits brought by the UAW against the car manufacturer for breach of contract and other issues are pending.

O & # 39; Brien said that if the company builds its headquarters here, other companies would follow.

Rulli said that the senators learned that the company has built between 400 and 500 US mail trucks that are underway in several areas to see how they are performing in different weather and terrain conditions.

“As far as technology goes, they have nailed it. But the elephant in the room is the financing, "Rulli said. "They told us that they are on track to get the $ 350 to $ 500 million needed to get into Lordstown. I can't say that the project is a homecoming yet, because there are still unanswered questions, but I feel much more confident now. "

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