Warren Expressed has been publishing for more than three years, and no subject in that time has generated as much attention and comment as the disposition of the former GE/Ohio Lamp properties. Both web traffic and comments are off the charts. We believe this is a pivotal issue and one we can win if we sustain an effort to communicate and persuade GE to do the right thing. (See posts from July 16, 28 and 29.)
We all owe a special thanks to everyone who has written so far; I know of at least a dozen letters, including former Mayor Sferra’s. There is also an effort underway by two Warren City Councilmen to get a formal letter from that body. An extra special thank you goes to Bill Lee, former Warrenite and W.O.O.F. member who found the name and location of the C.E.O. of GE’s lighting division in Cleveland and passed it on to us. This gave us an excuse to write another letter and address a point we’ve heard from several people that was not addressed in the original Immelt letter.
The new letter is below. If you still intend to write, or write again, we suggest addressing your thoughts to Ms. Slyvester. The best person to write to is the one who cares the most; theoretically that should be Ms. Sylvester, but until they respond we will be guessing. Let GE know that we care how they leave our city. Write today.
July 30, 2014
Ms. Maryrose Sylvester
President and CEO
GE Lighting Nela Park
1975 Noble Rd
Cleveland, Ohio 44112
Dear Ms. Sylvester:
Enclosed is a copy of a letter I wrote to Jeff Immelt two weeks ago; if it has not already, I’m sure it will eventually work its way from Fairfield to you or one of your colleagues.
An issue that has come up locally since the letter was made public is the possibility that General Electric is hoping to sell the former Ohio Lamp properties in order to recoup part of the demolition expense.
One can’t help wondering, given the glut of vacant industrial property available in Warren, if anyone has assessed the odds of selling either parcel for a meaningful amount of money in our lifetimes. However, please permit me to add two additional points to those in the Immelt letter in case that is your goal:
- We are in no way anti-development. Everyone supporting the request for GE to improve these barren properties would prefer see a new factory and new jobs, rather than a new park in their place. We don’t want you to do anything to negate that possibility.
- We are confident that if you work with us to improve the lots, that together we will create far greater public relations value for General Electric than the lots could ever return in a real estate sale.
To that end, on behalf of dozens of local community volunteers, I’d like to invite you to make the short drive to Warren to meet with us to discuss how we can improve the sites together. I can promise you a friendly, non-confrontational experience which has the potential to help make GE the leader in remediation of post industrial facilities of this nature.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Josh Nativio, who is probably Warren’s premiere political ball buster, (please excuse the vulgarity but there is really no other term that would do him justice) has also written a thoughtful and surprisingly emotional letter to Jeff Immelt at GE. (see previous posts if you need his address.) The photo is another from James Shuttic, whose work we quite like.
Dear Mr. Immelt:
I will not bore you with a summation of General Electric’s history in Warren, Ohio. Nor will I bore you with a history of the de-industrialization of middle America and the woes of the “rust belt”.
However, I will tell you that the battle to revive and bring back our downtown neighborhood is one of hand-to-hand combat. Make no mistake about it, it is a battle against trends and demographics and of public relations and perception. It is bloody and it seems like we are always on the cusp of losing, especially where perception is concerned.
The perception of our downtown area is one of being surrounded by acres of abandoned factories and industry, full of blight and a breeding ground for apathy. This is the perception because it is absolutely true. And it is an awful legacy for this city and for all of the companies and corporations that, for many reasons, have left Warren.
Smarter people than me will be lobbying and pleading and begging you to do something more than just cordon off your former Park Avenue plant with a fence. They will dress up their requests by telling you it will be a nice legacy. It will be a nice PR move. It will be worth it just to say that one company went that extra step to leave something behind other than more empty land.
I’ll dare to say that something more needs to be done because it is the right thing to do. Give us the General Electric People’s Park. Give us the Ohio Lamp Community Gardens. Give us something more than just decimated, post-industrial land because it is the proper thing to do.
Do so, and you’ll have hundreds of people in this community letting the world know that General Electric, and their leadership, did the right thing for the city they’ve moved on from. The corporate trades and the news cycles rarely have a story with that log line.
Well, OK, not exactly. But he feels like it every time he drives by the former GE Ohio Lamp plant site on West Market Street, and the former, four-term Warren Mayor is letting the CEO of GE know how he feels. If enough of us ask GE to do the right thing, they may just do it; they aren’t monsters. They are trying to make a buck and obey the law — which they are doing in this case. But they could easily do just a little more and our city would be so much better off.
At least a dozen other people have written and we will reprint some of the other letters in the coming weeks. Why not add yours to the voices speaking up for Warren’s future?
The beautiful photograph above was taken by James Shuttic of Warren and is used with his permission. (You can see more of his unique work on his web site.) The photo is of the Ohio Lamp building at Dana and Park where GE wants to leave us another barren prison yard. (If you missed the details see the WE post from earlier in July with our letter.)
Daniel J. Sferra
Warren City Councilman-at-Large
141 South Street S.E.
Warren, Ohio 44483
July 27, 2014
Mr. Jeffrey R. Immelt, Chairman and CEO
General Electric Corporation
3135 Easton Turnpike
Fairfield, CT 06828
Dear Mr. Immelt:
I was mayor of Warren, Ohio for sixteen years and never once took for granted the jobs that great companies like General Electric brought to this city. And I realize that our city, just like your company, is at the mercy of global economic trends, regulations and shifts caused by changing technologies. These are things that none of us have any power over and we roll with what is dealt.
That said, what we do have power over is what we leave behind, and I have to say that every time I drive past your former facility on West Market Street I want to put an ice pick through my eye. It looks like a prison yard, missing only a few dozens convicts wandering around in circles smoking, playing basketball and hoping not to catch a shiv in the back before they get return to their cells.
Economic times were good here when I was the mayor. In those days we could have prettied up a few acres of abandoned industry property ourselves. But these are much tougher times and we don’t have the money to do anything but stare at the fences, barbed wire and gravel you have left behind. Please leave something better for us to remember GE by on the lot on North Park Avenue where you are demolishing another two acre site.
We had a great turn-out on a beautiful afternoon this past Friday for the Garden District Crawl. About 75 people came through to see all the improvements and then visited the info-porch at 195 Belmont for a cookout, some music and to meet the neighbors. A smart guy would have had a camera with him on such a day, but we had to steal the shot from the TNP Facebook page you see here.
Special thanks goes to Mekenna Mcclurg, Lisa Ramsey, Shawn Carvin, Teron Cunningham and Marissa Williams from TNP for making the arrangements, and also to Rachel Dunn who always seems to be in the middle of everything lending a hand, and who dedicated her Peace of Hope Garden Friday as well.
The perfect day ended in a perfect way with the free Carlos Jones concert at the Amp, which was co-sponsored by TNP and the Fine Arts Council.
It’s really getting hard to keep up with all the good news and fun events happening in Warren right now. Pick up a copy of today’s Tribune and you’ll see on the front page an article about a great group of kids from the Junior High youth group at North Mar Church, who, as a part of their summer “in-service” day, worked at the Alumni Garden at Elm and Atlantic, at the Giving Tree Garden and the Garden District “Adopt-a-Home” renovation on Vine. They made some great improvements. The photos here are all of their work, which you can see by attending the Garden District Crawl tomorrow afternoon (see details below) on what promises to be a spectacularly beautiful summer afternoon.
Then the lead editorial in the same edition of the Trib endorsed the efforts to revitalize the Garden District and the Robins Theater and other projects designed to move the city forward beyond patching roads and tearing down abandoned houses. Those things are important, too, but we have to move forward with new things too.
There is a lot to do this weekend. Tonight the Fine Arts Council is bringing one of our favorite local artists, Damian Knapp and his band to the Amp at 7:00 p.m.; admission is free.
Tomorrow night the FAC and TNP will showcase Carlos Jones at 7:00 at the Amp at no cost. Carlos put on a great show last year and we are looking forward to seeing him again.
Saturday is the U2 tribute band at River Rock and the Greek Festival started last night and runs through Sunday. It will be a fun weekend in Warren.