When the Lordstown General Motors plant shut down in 2019, it was just the most recent of many auto plant scalebacks and closures to shake the region.

In the early days of the automotive industry, Cleveland was the epicenter of manufacturing. This was before Henry Ford’s assembly line approach, when cars were a luxury product crafted one at a time.

Even after the industry moved to Detroit, Northeast Ohio remained an important place to produce car parts and assemble finished products.

The industry has been far from stable, though, and the past decade has seen plenty of plant closures. Chrysler’s Twinsburg stamping plant shuttered in 2010. The Ford plant in Walton Hills closed in 2014, and the automaker’s Brook Park facility has shrunk over the years, notably when its engine block casting plant was shut down in 2010. The casting plant had opened in the ’50s, but as Ford started using more aluminum, the demand for cast-iron engines declined.

GM’s facility in Lordstown was built in the 1960s. Before the plant officially closed, the automaker had been scaling back shifts, from three to two to one, and issuing layoffs. That put a squeeze on the local supply chain long before the plant shut for good.

In late 2018, GM announced that the Lordstown plant would no longer be making the Chevrolet Cruze, and that it would not receive a new product. The last Cruze rolled off the line in March 2019. The official decision to completely close the plant came later in the year, when the automaker and the union ratified a new contract, but the writing had already been on the wall. GM’s big Lordstown production operation was done.

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