LIMA — The Joint Systems Manufacturing Center welcomed two state officials to tour the plant Monday.
Ohio Adjutant General Mark Bartman and Ohio Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger visited the plant, attending a Task Force Lima meeting and taking a tour.
The JSMC has a “huge impact on the Ohio economy,” Rosenberger said, adding that state Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, invited him to see the plant, as it’s important to jobs in the state and the nation.
Task force members discussed the difference in Department of Defense funding that goes to Ohio compared to other states, as Ohio is “well below” the average, getting $617 per person, Berger said.
Rosenberger said it’s important the community is involved, and Alabama, one of the states with higher funding, has been able to pull that support together.
“The Defense Department in my mind works at a fifth-grade level,” Rosenberger said. “They want to see different silos helping impact their mission.”
Bartman attended in the hopes of better understanding what goes on at the government-owned, contractor-operated tank and military vehicle production facility.
During the Task Force Lima meeting, a group of community members, union members and officials working to keep the facility open, Bartman spoke on the possibility of another Base Closure and Realignment Commission being formed.
“We know there’s probably going to be some type of another BRAC in the future,” Bartman said. “It’s all about trying to speak with one voice when it comes to federally elected officials.”
He said community groups such as Task Force Lima can inform those officials about what’s going on at the facilities and why it’s important that it continues.
Though it may seem minimal, a new parking lot recently installed at the JSMC is significant, and a sign of better things to come.
“It’s the first significant reinvestment in the plant facility in a long, long time,” said Lima Mayor David Berger, co-chair of Task Force Lima. “It’s a really positive sign.”
Plant Commander Lt. Col. Matthew Hodge said the parking lot is a symbol.
“We do have some investment coming this way,” he said. There are “several more million behind that in smaller production,” Hodge said, referring to the $6.6 million the U.S. Army investment in the plant announced in August.
The plant is going to ramp up Abrams production from where it is at one a month now to six a month starting in January and lasting through July, said plant manager Hank Kennedy.
The plant is also starting work on Morocco turrets, which it will build 50 of. In 2017, it will begin building 150 full vehicles for Morocco, Hodge said.
Employment at the plant will stay steady, around 350, through 2016, Kennedy said, as programs are phasing out as others are phasing in, keeping the work stable. He didn’t comment on how it would be in 2017, though he did say some work should come back into the plant.
Hodge also announced his retirement, coming up in June.
In other business, the task force decided to appoint former JSMC plant manager Keith Deters to a state military facilities commission. The task force is also hoping to get JSMC retiree Denny Glenn, recently appointed to the Ohio Federal Military Jobs Commission, reappointed for another term.
Reach Danae King at 567-242-0511 or on Twitter @DanaeKing.