Portman tours GM plant

LORDSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) –  It is a success story.

That is what U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said about the Lordstown General Motors plant after his first tour of the plant on Friday. He spoke with some of the 4,500 employees who make the Chevrolet Cruze.

“That team is producing a world-class car in a world-class production facility,” Portman said.

The media was not allowed on the tour, but the senator did make time to talk to reporters. He talked about ways to make the auto industry more competitive and tackled issues like trade and energy production.

Portman also stressed the importance of having more skilled workers.

“Manual labor means understanding now how to work a computer, so software expertise. If you look here on the plant floor, it’s a clean, safe environment. It’s a great job,” Portman said.

“People skills are so important. You also are looking at strong technological background. That’s important too. And you have to be able to build and fix,” GM Lordstown plant spokesman Tom Mock said.

Portman was asked questions about millions of GM cars being recalled, which also involved a stop delivery order for the Cruze that has since been lifted. Model year 2005 through 2007 Chevrolet Cobalts, which also were made in Lordstown, also have been recalled for ignition switch issues.

Portman said there needs to be accountability when it comes to ignition switches.

“People need to be held accountable. There was a hearing on it this week in the Senate and there was discussion about who is responsible and specifically was there some sort of effort to hide this from consumers?,” Portman said.

Mock acknowledged the car maker’s woes this year, but said it does not affect how the workers do their job.

“We have a mature workforce here. They are focused on the car we are building. They all feel compassion for what has happened, but they understand we have a job to do and we will continue to do that job,” Mock said.

Portman said during his tour on Friday, he saw multiple safety and quality checks on the Cruzes and thinks the service standards speak for themselves.

He also discussed his political aspirations. Portman is running for re-election in the U.S. Senate and he also is considering a bid for president in 2016.

“I am also going to look and see who runs. I think the country is in trouble. I think there are things that have to be done to get this economy moving again that are not being done in Washington. I think you need somebody in the Oval Office who can bring people together and solve problems. We have not see that in this administration over the past six years,” Portman said.

He was elected to his Senate seat in 2010.

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