June 2, 2009
MY AMERICAN TOWN HAS ONE FOOT IN A CAST AND THE OTHER IS ABOUT TO STEP ON THE BANANA PEEL.
Can a town of 50,000 survive when it's industrial base is pulled out from under it bit by bit? This of course is a rhetorical question with an unknowable answer. The question has become a personal one. The town is mine and the latest loss is a big one and perhaps the final straw. Our town has been selected as one of the final pieces in the GM bankruptcy to have a redundant factory. It's been expected when word started filtering down that thirteen more plants would have to go. But it is no help for those employees affected; for the town, or it's businesses.
The town has survived the loss of: Mansfield Tire and Rubber 1,721 workers in 1978
Ohio Brass 1220 workers in 1990
Westinghouse 3244 workers in 1990
Tappan 1422 workers in 1992
and now GM 1200 workers.
Could it have closed at a worse time? No, Will the town survive this? Yes they will, but what comes out on the other end will not be the same town. Out of necessity many will pull up roots and relocate because of job requirements. Some will relocate because the town itself is aging and because of the gradual loss of tax base is looking its age, and those who can afford to will decide that the grass is greener on down the road. What will also happen to a degree is the theory that a vacuum must by nature be occupied by something, will indeed be filled in by those who could not afford to escape to those greener pastures. As the tax base lowers, the infrastructure will suffer with neglected road repairs, boarded up houses will become more prevalent; house values already decreasing will decrease more. Livability decreases.
What percentage of the population will stay? Who can say, but we know that the problem we already have, and that most smaller towns have alike is that all our best and brightest will leave because we do not now, and will certainly not in the near or far away future have the jobs to offer them.
Who do we blame? No one in particular. The times certainly and who shares in that? The government for sure, The banks, indeed, Going to a world economy, which all economists swear by, but all towns like mine can only begrudge because it has taken our future away from us.
Those of us who remain because of age and/or in truth because we don't have another move in us will remain in a town subtracted of many businesses whose presence and product made life a little more enjoyable for us. Such is the way of 21st century life, so far.
The latest comment from one of my most dedicated readers, could it be because she is my cousin? Sondra who grew up in Mansfield and knows the town we grew up in and loved. She also knows about one of the plants that closed in 1992, Tappans. You will find the article here. Her father, my uncle, was named the general manager of the Tappan plant in Murray Kentucky long before the term, 'rust belt' was coined. She remembers Mansfield in it's very good days when our extended families were still young and anything was possible. We exchange thoughts frequently so you will in all probability meet her again. Here are her unedited thoughts regarding plant closings:
Regarding your article about the closing of the GM plant in Mansfield, I found the information about other plant closures most interesting. Until I read that I had forgotten how much a child of the industry world I was. To best describe this, I remember what my Grandmother Kitt said upon my marriage to Bill, a graduate engineer that was going to work at the Space Center in Florida. "Your man is so skinny, how will he ever work in a factory to make a living?" Of course, it was that wonderful industrial town of Mansfield that allow Grandma and Grandpa to achieve what they came to America to achieve. I am proud of my heritage and know I was taught good values that has sustained me all through life. America needs to build as that is what made America great and what is now dying. God help us all.