Springfield Chamber, UAW promote Navistar to local governments

Union leader: ‘Local taxpayer dollars should support American manufacturing.’

The Chamber of Greater Springfield, Navistar and a local union are circulating a letter statewide that asks governments throughout Ohio to consider Navistar when buying new vehicles.

It’s a “Buy Local” campaign for medium and heavy-duty trucks.

The letter was mailed earlier this month to more than 630 government entities throughout the state, said Mike McDorman, president of the Chamber.

It highlights improvements the company has made in recent years and urges government officials to give Navistar a chance to win their business.

“We are partnering with UAW Local 402 and Navistar to help promote our local facility with hopes of increasing truck and bus sales for the company,” McDorman said.

Jason Barlow, president of the United Auto Workers Local 402, came up with the plan, then sought support from the chamber and company officials before the letter was mailed. Along with McDorman, the letter is also signed by William Osborne, Navistar’s senior vice president for global manufacturing and quality. The UAW Local 402 represents more than 1,200 workers at the company’s Springfield facility.

Officials at Navistar’s corporate offices could not be reached for comment. The company has suffered a loss of market share in recent years after struggles with a failed engine technology.

The letter cites recent management changes at the company, as well as better fuel efficiency and reliability in its vehicles. Last year, Navistar reached an agreement with GM to build medium-duty trucks at the Springfield facility, and the company has pledged to invest $50 million at the site.

“The company, the union and the chamber are working together to help build awareness around these recent developments and are hoping you will give Navistar another opportunity to win your business through this ‘Buy Local, Buy Navistar’ campaign,” the letter states. “On behalf of the 6,000 plus families who live in Clark County and will be affected by the future success or failure of Navistar, we want to thank you in advance for giving Navistar your strongest consideration before buying another truck.”

Barlow said he came up with the idea while sitting at a Tim Hortons restaurant in Springfield. He saw an ambulance go by, noticed it was not a Navistar vehicle, but a Dodge. He soon followed up with local township officials. The Dodge ambulances are made in Mexico, Barlow said.

“Local taxpayer dollars should support American manufacturing,” Barlow said.

Some local officials have also endorsed the effort.

“If they’re close in price, I think we have to try to buy local,” said John Detrick, Clark County commissioner.

It’s not typical for a union to join hands with a chamber of commerce, but Navistar’s success is important to Springfield, McDorman said.

“When you look at what Navistar is doing, they’re investing in this plant, they’re positioning their product to be best in class, and we want to make sure that’s getting out there because that might not have been the case several years ago when they were going through some challenges,” McDorman said.

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