By KATHRYNE RUBRIGHT
LIMA — President Donald Trump praised tank plant workers during a visit to Lima on Wednesday afternoon and took credit for keeping the factory open.
In January, the Army awarded General Dynamics Land Systems a $714 million contract to upgrade 174 Abrams tanks at the Lima plant.
“It is here in Lima, right here, that American greatness is forged with American hands, with American heart and with American pride,” said Trump, who received about 66 percent of the vote in Allen County in the 2016 presidential election.
General Dynamics is one of two companies hoping to manufacture a Mobile Protected Firepower tank for the Army. The Lima plant, which is owned by the federal government and operated by General Dynamics, will produce 12 prototype vehicles.
The tank plant is expected to add 400 jobs for the various projects.
The Lima plant came close to shutting down in 2012, when the Army said it had enough tanks.
“We don’t need the tanks,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress then. “Our tank fleet is two and a half years old on average now. We’re in good shape, and these are additional tanks that we don’t need.”
The plant avoided closing thanks to a bipartisan push to spend millions on upgrading tanks.
In 2016, former President Barack Obama’s administration proposed spending more than $1 billion to update Abrams tanks and Stryker armored vehicles. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which he signed in December 2016, included about $1.2 billion for those upgrades.
The Trump administration’s 2020 budget proposal calls for upgrades of more than 160 Abrams tanks as part of $750 billion in defense spending.
Speaking before the president’s arrival. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, both praised Trump for increasing production at the plant.
As he touted military spending Wednesday, Trump did not mention military construction projects that could be delayed or canceled if funding is diverted to build a wall on the southern U.S. border.
A list compiled by the Pentagon includes six Ohio projects, worth a total of $112 million, that could be affected:
• $6.8 million for a fire/crash rescue station at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
• $61 million for a National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
• $7.4 million for an automated multipurpose machine gun range at Camp Ravenna.
• $13 million to replace a fire station at Mansfield Lahm Airport.
• $15 million for a hangar at Toledo Express Airport.
• $8.8 million to relocate the main gate at the Youngstown Air Reserve Station.
Trump declared a national emergency on Feb. 15 in an attempt to secure border wall funding without congressional approval.
Both chambers of Congress passed a resolution to terminate the national emergency. Trump issued his first veto in response. Neither chamber has attempted to override the veto, so far.
The president touched on several other areas during his remarks at the tank plant, including criticism of union leaders and the late Sen. John McCain.
“What’s going on with General Motors? Get that plant open, or sell it to somebody and they’ll open it,” he said, referring to the Lordstown plant that produced its last Chevrolet Cruze on March 6.
The United Auto Workers will help get the plant open, Trump said Wednesday.
On Sunday, Trump had tweeted criticism of UAW Local 1112 President David Green, and again criticized union leaders on Wednesday. “They’re not honest,” Trump said, adding that they should lower union dues.
Trump also attacked McCain, who died last August, for his vote against repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.
“I’ve never liked him much,” Trump said.
Trump said he “gave (McCain) the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve. I don’t care about this, I didn’t get ‘thank you,’ that’s OK. We sent him on the way, but I wasn’t a fan of John McCain.”
Discussing trade with China, Trump said the country is “paying tariffs on the products they’re sending in.” However, tariffs are paid by importers in the United States, not by China or Chinese companies.
Trump claimed Wednesday that 600,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs have been added during his presidency. The actual number is around 466,000, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Trump touted U.S. unemployment being at a 50-year low, and told tank plant workers they could easily find other jobs if they wanted to, but “who the hell would want to leave this place? This is what you call a great place to work.”