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Thread: Loss of manufacturing jobs, what next?

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    Loss of manufacturing jobs, what next?

    I'm sure that this has been discussed in other threads, but I've been wondering about how other cities have recently absorbed the loss of manufacturing jobs and what becomes of those factories. Recently here in the Bay Area there was a piece in the paper about needing young people for specialized manufacturing jobs as many of those workers will be retiring within the next few years. But in the same week there was news of the closure of the Mother's Cookies factory in Oakland. So my questions are:

    How do other cities absorb the loss of manufacturing jobs?
    What happens to these factories? I know that cities have been successful in converting large factories and entire industrial areas to housing/office, but what about smaller non-descript factories on the edge of town or in industrial parks? Are they ever utilized for manufacturing again?

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    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by high density
    I'm sure that this has been discussed in other threads, but I've been wondering about how other cities have recently absorbed the loss of manufacturing jobs and what becomes of those factories. Recently here in the Bay Area there was a piece in the paper about needing young people for specialized manufacturing jobs as many of those workers will be retiring within the next few years. But in the same week there was news of the closure of the Mother's Cookies factory in Oakland. So my questions are:

    How do other cities absorb the loss of manufacturing jobs?
    What happens to these factories? I know that cities have been successful in converting large factories and entire industrial areas to housing/office, but what about smaller non-descript factories on the edge of town or in industrial parks? Are they ever utilized for manufacturing again?
    Toledo and NW Ohio are right in the center of the infamous "rust belt". There are many examples of old factories that have closed and newer factories that have closed. The oldest facilities usually get the wrecking ball.

    Many of the area factory buildings are now used as low-cost, zero-amenity warehouses. Most cities probably have a local firm or two that purchase these not-yet-over-the-hill buildings and lease the floor space as warehousing. Here in the Toledo area that company (and family) is Willis Day. Their prime business is to buy these properties and lease them.....on the cheap.

    Older factories tend to have lower ceilings, so bulk storage is usually what these buiildings hold. My company has thousands of pallets of products stored in buildings such as I have described.

    A relatively new concept to the states is "supplier park". Often, these parks are older industrial parks (perhaps vintage 1960's). They are located very near major factories (such as a Jeep assembly plant) and within their walls are just-in-time type suppliers. A few years ago I toured just such a facility, making transmission housings for a specific automobile, with the assembly plant nearby.

    Another old factory in Toledo that I have recently been in is now "the land of 10,000 used machines". This company sells used equipment and is conducting their business from an old factory. I know of a factory in suburban Fulton County that sat empty for a number of years, because the original factory owners moved their oil filter business to another country. That empty factory was purchased for a song and a dance by a major building supply manufacturer and is doing very well, partially because the large open-spaces in the old building are perfect for handling the large product they manufacture.

    Here in Swanton, OH, a major factory closed a few years ago. That plant produced wooden furniture. Their business became victim to a society that assembles their own furniture (composite wood, yuck). That building was partitioned-off and some smaller businesses are operating.....but much of the 1940's facility remains empty.

    A friend of mine has a small machine shop business. He was originally in a small community about 20 miles from Toledo's southern suburbs. He needed space, so he moved his business to a larger and available old factory building in west Toledo. That building gives him the space he needs to opreate efficiently.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Bear Up North
    Another old factory in Toledo that I have recently been in is now "the land of 10,000 used machines". This company sells used equipment and is conducting their business from an old factory.
    Experiences in Detroit are very similar to Toledo. However, instead of being located at a major US crossroads however we are located at the largest border crossing for trading goods.

    I've been to the old Chrysler Imperal factory when it was the same thing, kind of spooky to see all of the old robots, milling, and press equipment just laying around like that.

    Lately we have been seeing a large increase in the reuse of the really old multi story factories as loft apartments.

    Trucking continues to grow in importance, which means big impacts when redevoping the city. This is in a City that has always had nine-line wide arterials or suimilar sized boulevards! Its not enough to make products anymore, its key is timely delivery, no one wants to be stuck with millions of dollars worth of specialized parts when models change so often, so delivery of parts and products is the one advantage that places like Detroit and Toledo have over competition from overseas manufacturers. Manufacturing of automobiles is still centered in the western lake erie basin, and surrounding area. Even though we now have different players such as Honda and Mazda, they need timely parts delivery too. It often results in feast or famine conditions for these suppliers.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Thanks for both of the responses

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    I am fortunate enough tto live in an area that has done reasonably well with a loss of manufacturing. It has done so by diversifying its industrial base. The area is heavily focused on high tech industries and R&D. the downtown was heavily focused on manufacturing right up until the late 80's. The majority of these factories are now bing converted into loft housing and it has been doing wonders for the city core. The smaller factories in buisness parks or on the outskits of the city are usually the ones that have coped best. The land outside of the city is really cheap and they are ususlly smaller light manufacturing facilities. These buisness usually fulfill a specialized role and are able to stay in buisness.

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    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    Most manufacturing jobs discussions focus on big employers. A lot of recruitment is for big employers. We are working on small employers -- focusing on those who want to expand in neighboring cities and cannot and, even more importantly, those who live in town or have employees that live in town. It's a bit early to measure our success, but I think our program will work. We are also considering a housing for local employees program. That will be developed next year.

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    What happens next? Penury and bankruptcy.

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    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    A city aborbs the loss of manufacturing jobs in many ways. There is always an increase in unemployment ( in case you were wondering.)These workers often have difficulty finding comparable work in both skill and pay. These workers have three choices: move or commute long distances to find similiar work or learn a new job. Michigan is experiencing this in full force. The city must try and to encourage existing businesses to expand and try to attract new companies. Nowadays a new company will most likely only bring 50 jobs which does not compenstate for a factory that employed 300+.

    As for the question what do you do about the empty factories is always a difficult decision. First off, after a factory shutters the building is still owned by the orginal tenant. Most companies want to sell it and often ask too much of the building. These facilities tend to be too large, too old and sometimes too contaminated to be sellable but it does happen. Often the building is used as available space to be rented. Agressive small towns and edge cities use creativity to maximize the old factory and if they are in an industrial park they often find homes since the building is not very old (> 30 years.)

    The short answer to your question that often the building remains vacant or underutilized of the remaining part of its life. As an economic developer in a small city in Michigan the solution to your question is what keep me up at night.

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    Has there been any success with old factories actually becoming new factories? Or is this impossible?

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    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by hitchhiker
    Has there been any success with old factories actually becoming new factories? Or is this impossible?
    Justrite Manufacturing opened at the former Brown Shoe Factory in Mattoon in 1973. They are still there today


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    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    I would suggest this book (IF you can find it): A Future from The Past: The Case for Conservation and Reuse of Old Buildings in Industrial communities (A joint publication of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Massachussetts Department of Community Affairs) I found it used. I think it was written in the 1970's and is out of print.

    There is another book that I am trying to remember the title of which talks about small businesses flourishing in the wake of a big business leaving town.

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    Member CosmicMojo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hitchhiker
    Has there been any success with old factories actually becoming new factories? Or is this impossible?
    It is not impossible, but difficult, since modern automation requires ceiling clearance, weight bearing, etc.
    Most old warehouse do not have the ceiling clearance necessary for modern stacking abilities, and the floors can't hold the weight of big machinery. Also, there are often air filtration needs in modern assembly that old warehouses can't provide. It is usually cheaper to buid a new facility than retrofit an old one.
    Last edited by CosmicMojo; 10 Apr 2006 at 10:13 AM.

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    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by hitchhiker
    Has there been any success with old factories actually becoming new factories? Or is this impossible?
    New factories also do not need as much space and require spefic lay outs that match lean manufacturing goals. Smaller factories that have been built in the past 20 years are often reconfigured and work at full capacity but the old factories from post WWII are difficult to fill.

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    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    There was a very interesting article in the Star Ledger today on Philipsburg NJ's Atlantic States Cast Iron. All stats and info I will post is form this article . In a town where 8% don't finish 8th grade, 21% don't finish high school, and now the locals have to compete for jobs with the new mexican and peruvian immigrants working at this super polluter is highly sought after because it pays $14.75 to start. As one man said in the article, where else can an underskilled, uneducated person make that money, "Wal-Mart? you couldn't pay me to work their". So even though this plant is in trial for OSHA and EPA viloations spaning over 10 years the locals want it to stay and take the bumps and bruises that come with working in a foundery to make a decent buck.

    See here in America we will sue a good job provider for millions and basically force them to go overseas where the working conditions will be just as bad and more than likely worse with less government oversight. Maybe the way we go about watchdogging these types of businesses needs to be rethought and instead of suing everyone in sight maybe the money could be spent on helping industries comply and provide them help in planning and implementing changes?
    @GigCityPlanner

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    Cyburbian njm's avatar
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    Then there are the cities that haven't coped as well.

    Rochester has a very high commercial and industrial vacancy rate (and likewise a very long list of city-owned condemned residential properties.) Kodak used to employ 4-5 times as many people (and had 3 very large operations.) I now work in one of those old facilities. It is at less than 30% occupancy, and most of that 30% is low-labor occupations (such as warehousing.) Other facilities have been razed in hopes of redevelopment. Meanwhile the city and county (which includes many 'prosperous' suburbs in addition to the city) struggle with providing services to a workforce adapting to 7.00/hour service jobs from 20.00/hour industrial.

    I often think 'where to begin' when walking down the street or riding the bus past an empty factory. The unfortunate reality will be one of two things (barring the discovery of money growing on a tree):

    - wage parity between government workers (fire, police, education) and service workers (retail, foodservice)
    - a scandinavian-stlye tax system that taxes lower-wage earners at 25% and high-wages earners at 55% (don't quote me on the percentages)

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