Midwest cities feel auto industry pain
Jim Hagerty, Staff Writer
Just how grim life in industrial and manufacturing towns will be in the wake of an all-but-dismantled U.S. auto industry continues to be unknown. With little positivity on the horizon at the corporate level, even more extreme cutbacks are expected on the home fronts of thousands who depended on comfortable auto worker salaries.
As U.S. automakers are more dependent on government relief funds pushed closer to global mergers, industry wages are predicted to dip to all-time lows to keep the companies afloat. States like Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, largely dependent on successful manufacturing industries, could be in for a sobering reality check. When industry topples, blight follows.
If just one of Detroits Big Three goes belly-up, economists say the aftermath would be devastating, resulting in the loss of about 2 million jobs, equating to more than $250 billion income. Hundreds of parts suppliers, rubber makers, car dealers and other symbiotic merchants would also be sent packing. Economists fear this outcome just may be on the horizon.
General Motors has until the end of May to restructure to qualify for further federal aid. Chrysler, reportedly in the middle of a merger with Fiat, has been ordered by Washington to solidify the deal by the end of this month. This means further plant closings could be imminent and bankruptcy more of a reality than ever before. As families pack for greener pastures, Midwestern manufacturing cities are being left behind to look like Old West ghost towns. Some states are starting see more people leave each year than are moving in. Michigan saw almost 110,000 people bail last year, census numbers show. If economists are correct, more Americans will continue to turn from a decades-long dependency on manufacturing income, especially those provided by automotive-related industries.
Rockford-area workers of the past, no strangers to mass manufacturing exoduses, saw thousands of jobs disappear as factories moved abroad. Decades of confusion and longing to return to the good, old days are fresh on the minds of all who remembered the city in its heyday. For thousands of Chrysler employees, theyve already begun preparing to join the ranks of those who came before them.
The next few weeks will prove crucial for millions of people who commonly represent billions of dollars, as Detroitmainly Chrysler and GMcontinues to keep the ax from striking down its cash supplies that used to feed manufacturing families throughout the Midwest.
from the April 15-21, 2009, issue
Print This Article