Turn back the clock to Jan. 28, 2003.
It was a dark day in Lima when the state announced the closure of the 88-year-old Lima Correctional Institution, putting nearly 500 people out of work and pulling an estimated $1 million out of the region’s economy.
At that time, government, business and union officials were all caught by surprise. No one saw the closure coming, even though there had been rumors that a strapped-for-cash Department of Rehabilitation was looking at a consolidation of the state’s prisons.
We learned our lesson that day. Officials vowed the Lima region would never be surprised like that again. Soon, they would find themselves tested again with the Lima Army Tank Plant facing possible closure through the federal government’s Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process.
Those two events lead to the formation of Task Force Lima, a group of about two dozen government officials, plant managers, private business leaders and members of organized labor. One of the first things the group did was change the tank plant’s name to the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC). This was done to better reflect the plant produces more than tanks for the Army, but also makes vehicles for other branches of the military. Today, the task force continues to fly members to Washington to spread that message and have brought members of Congress and the Department of Defense to the Lima facility, where the visitors learn firsthand about JSMC’s critical role to national defense and also see the skill sets and pride of its workforce.
This week, every current and former member of that task force should be wearing a smile with the announcement that President Donald Trump will be visiting the Lima facility on Wednesday.
Trump’s visit reaffirms the president’s commitment to the United States military and the American worker, a White House spokesperson told The Lima News, where the visit was first announced.
The facility has had its ups and downs since the turn of the century.
Five years ago, things were particularly dour. JSMC was on the brink of shuttering its operations as the United States’ last remaining tank plant. We saw, however, what can happen when everyone pulls together with a common goal. Plant management worked with the workforce and the workforce worked with plant management to keep the plant running with less than 400 employees. Task Force Lima was also fully engaged to the point where representatives for U.S. Senator Rob Portman, a Republican moderate, and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican conservative, worked hand-in-hand with Democrat liberal U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown to keep the doors from closing.
The big turnaround came this year on Jan. 11 when the U.S. Army announced a $714 million order for General Dynamics Land Systems upgrades for 174 M1 Abrams tanks. It will result in a 58 percent increase in its workforce in a year’s time. General Dynamics estimates that JSMC will employ 935 individuals to produce 34 tanks each month.
That’s what Trump will be heralding Wednesday.
“Under the Trump Administration’s policies, the Lima Army Tank Plant continues to increase its production and intends to hire hundreds of new workers over the next few years,” the White House noted. “The positive economic benefits of this expansion not only impacts the Lima Army Tank Plant and the local community, but also stimulates the downstream of manufacturing facilities across Ohio and the nation.”
It was great to hear those words coming from the nation’s capital. It’s something Lima has always known. The men and women who work at JSMC are truly a group who are making America great again.
President Trump will see that in three days. We cannot wait to hear what he has to say.