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What Could Workhorse Mean For Lordstown?

Mark Franko, 28-year General Motors employee, holds an American flag as employees gather outside the plant, Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in Lordstown, Ohio.
Tony Dejak
Associated Press
Mark Franko, 28-year General Motors employee, holds an American flag as employees gather outside the plant, Wednesday, March 6, 2019, in Lordstown, Ohio.

News about a possible buyer for the General Motors plant in Lordstown is generating a lot of interest in Workhorse, the Cincinnati company involved in the deal.

The Workhorse Group Incorporated grew out of electric vehicle maker AMP, which was founded in 2007. It was founded by Steve Burns, who left as the company CEO in February but remains a consultant.

The plans for Lordstown call for Burns to head up a newly formed entity.

"Apparently he is going to take a major role in this Lordstown plan if it's going to take shape," says Chris Wetterich, reporter and columnist with The Cincinnati Business Courier.

Wetterich describes Workhorse as a startup.

"They're really a company that has spent a lot of money on research and development,” he says. “They have a few contracts, most notably with United Parcel Service, to provide electric trucks. And of course the delivery and logistics industry wants to find ways to cut costs and going to electric trucks could definitely save them some money.”

But Workhorse is still trying to get off the ground.

“They've lost money the last couple of years,” Wetterich says. “They're like a lot of electric car manufacturers, they're basically a startup company at this point still." 

Currently the company makes a couple different kinds of vehicles. 

"They’ve built some trucks for UPS, delivery trucks,” he says. “They’re in line for a contract with the U.S. Postal Service, which they would build a smaller truck and fleet of delivery vehicles for them. Then they do have, if you saw it on the street, you would say that looks kind of like a pickup truck.”

Workhorse is also involved in developing drones and other aviation devices.

“The drone takes off from the truck and delivers the package to your house,” he says.

Still, it’s hard to tell how viable the company currently is. Their revenue was less than $1 million in 2018.

"It's a company spending a lot on research and development, losing a lot of money, which is not unusual in the startup field,” Wetterich says. “The hope, of course, from investors is that it takes off in a big way and they make up their losses and then some. But it's hard to tell. It's not a company we've heard a whole lot about other than capital funding and the UPS contract."

One tweet from President Trump may have changed its course, though.

"There’s a lot of interest in this company right now,” Wetterich says.

A Northeast Ohio native, Sarah Taylor graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she worked at her first NPR station, WMUB. She began her professional career at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati and spent two decades in television news, the bulk of them at WKBN in Youngstown (as Sarah Eisler). For the past three years, Sarah has taught a variety of courses in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State, where she is also pursuing a Master’s degree. Sarah and her husband Scott, have two children. They live in Tallmadge.