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DeWine At City Club: No Jobs Will Be Lost At Avon Lake Ford Plant

Governor Mike DeWine is interviewed by journalist Tom Beres at the City Club of Cleveland Friday forum. [ideastream]
Governor Mike DeWine is interviewed by journalist Tom Beres at the City Club of Cleveland Friday forum.

Despite word this week that Ford Motor Company may change its plans to build a new truck at its Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, moving production instead to Mexico, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday that jobs there won't be lost and the future is bright.

Speaking at a City Club of Cleveland forum with retired political reporter Tom Beres, the governor said the state reached out to Ford.

"They have assured us that the future of Ford, as far as in Ohio, is very good," DeWine said. "The jobs that are in there now are not in jeopardy in any way, shape or form. What we're talking to them about is their future plans."

Those future plans involved production of a "next generation vehicle." The company announced in 2019 production would ramp up in Avon in 2023, bringing up to 1,500 new jobs, nearly doubling the workforce. Ford said it would invest $900 million into the plant.

But the United Auto Workers union warned Ohio Assembly Plant workers in a letter this week that the company plans instead to move production of the new truck to Mexico. 

 Asked by Beres whether there were any state incentives that his administration would seek to roll back, similar to when General Motors shut down its Lordstown plant, the governor said, "I don't think that's going to happen."

Ford officials said they have invested $185 million into the plant and have increased production of Super Duty trucks.

The City Club event, meant to focus mostly on Ohio's response to the coronavirus pandemic, touched on a number of other newsworthy topics.

The governor announced that former Franklin County Judge Jenifer French is his nominee to be the new chairwoman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, replacing Sam Randazzo, who resigned amid the HB 6 statehouse bribery probe.

"Talking to people who have gone before her, people who know her, a very smart judge," DeWine said. "She has no background in the industry, period, which I think in this unique point in time is a real asset."

French's nomination is subject to confirmation by the senate. DeWine reiterated his belief that lawmakers will replace House Bill 6, the subject of the federal bribery investigation.

On the pandemic, DeWine talked about the massive effort to vaccinate Northeast Ohioans at Cleveland State University, where a mass vaccination clinic has been up and running since Wednesday inside the Wolstein Center.

He said President Joe Biden's staff sought out Ohio's opinion before he took office January 20, which helped lead to the CSU mass vaccination site.

"Our first question was kind of a practical one: 'With this site, does that come with extra vaccine?' And the answer was, 'Yes'," DeWine said.

The CSU site can offer up to 6,000 doses per day, which the governor said was important because it's a key play in the "offense" vs. the vaccine. The "defense," he said, is still wearing a mask.

"We've seen the cycle," DeWine said. "It's usually a 90-day, 120-day cycle. So, the cycle would indicate this should be coming back up."

DeWine also defended the state's often-criticized vaccine scheduling system, which just recently moved to a centralized model, and said once residents have signed up, the process has been smooth.

"We avoided what we saw in some other states where people were lined up for six, seven, eight hours at a time in the heat or in the cold," DeWine said. "So, not a perfect system, but it's a uniquely Ohio system, and I wish ... we could've flipped a switch on Day One and gone into a central system."

DeWine repeated his stance that he would not have voted for Biden's stimulus package, saying he wishes it would've been a bipartisan bill, and he agrees with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost's lawsuit, questioning the federal government's right to dictate state tax policy as part of the package. 

The governor also cautioned that the more than $11 billion coming to Ohio is "one-time" money.

"We should not create more bureaucracy, we should not create more employees," DeWine said. "What we ought to do is take that money, one-time money, spend it in a one-time way. For example, infrastructure."

DeWine said expanded broadband access is a priority for the funding.

Townships are not included in the package, but a lot of money will flow into the counties, he said.

The state also plans to spend $50 million of the federal money for a marketing campaign, attempting to attract more residents and tourists to Ohio.

DeWine did not give specifics when asked what amount of revenue or population growth would make the state's campaign a success, instead relaying a story he's heard from corporate executives in the state.

"People want to stay when they get into Ohio and they see what we have," he said.

On his political fortunes, the governor was stalwart. He said he would accept an endorsement for re-election from former President Donald Trump, despite the riots at the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

"Would you be interested in that?" Beres asked.

"Well, sure, sure," DeWine said.

"No second thoughts at all?" Beres asked.

"No," Dewine responded.

"No one was happy with that day," DeWine said about the riots. "It was one of the saddest days, saddest things I've ever seen. As someone who served in Congress for 20 years and served in that building for 20 years, it was a horrible, horrible day and he should've done more."

While DeWine would be happy receiving the former president's endorsement, he continues to hold views that many Trump supporters do not.

For example, the governor said he does not believe Rocky River Congressman Anthony Gonzalez should lose his job for voting to impeach Trump.

"He was voting his conscience," DeWine said. "He made that call, that was his decision. I think he's been a good member of Congress."

DeWine doesn't mind being called "squishy" by Trump-aligned Republicans like Josh Mandel, who is vying for U.S. Senate. He said he's been called worse and he's focused on his job as governor.

Glenn Forbes is supervising producer of newscasts at Ideastream Public Media.