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Thread: What are good replacement jobs for industrial jobs lost?

  1. #1

    What are good replacement jobs for industrial jobs lost?

    Like many other Midwestern rust-belt cities, we are facing closures of several industrial factories. We have a GM supplier (Delphi) and a Ford supplier (Visteon), a automobile vinyl manufacturer and a foundry all close (or offer buyouts) within the last year. What are good replacement jobs/industries for these unskilled laborers who were once making $25-$35/hr pushing buttons in factories?
    It seems our area is already geared toward tourism, but these workers will not be able to live on $8-10/hr jobs at the hotels, retail stores and restaurants that crop up. We have no pubic utilites (besides the standard water and sewer) to offer up to attract any new industry. What have other rust-belt cities turned to in replacement of these jobs?
    The skilled workers will likely survive, as construction on these new retail and hotel are always ongoing and these types of services will seemingly be in demand for a long time to come. My question is geared more in the interest of the unskilled workers (button-pushers) of automated or semi-automated machines.
    So far the resultant of these eliminations of jobs, our local housing market is down and foreclosures are at record highs as these former workers who once made very good money can no longer afford their mortgage payments. They can only down-grade on their housing, yet the supply of workers who can afford their $200k+ houses dwindles - therefore houses sit on the market for 9mo-1yr+.
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  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    When you find out let me know, you think you have problems with this, oy!

    I'm hoping for a whole lot of folks using their buy outs to open up their own businesses. Unfortunately most of these folks are clueless as they have always worked for someone else (I know I would be). A sudden rush of new businesses with new ideas might just create a process or a product that can revolutionize an industry ans allow us to do what the japanese have done to us: Learn to build things better, at a lower cost, and start exporting what we used to import. Unfortunately, not many in the rust belt have this sort of mentality, our industry has matured and become somewhat leery of change. Those that do have the right mentality, already have good jobs they are happy with!
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  3. #3
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    I depressingly believe that the $25-35 was an inflated wage promised by manufacturers when globalization was only an idea or fantasy. The dynamics have changed and I really don't believe you can find a replacement job for unskilled workers who make that kind of money (more than this college educated bloke).
    Unskilled labor is only worth $10-$20 an hour now. Perhaps relocation and retraining is the only viable solution for these workers.

    This is one of the reasons I've always felt that if globalization went full bore, we in the USA would have to suffer a decline in our expected Quality of Life in order to balance the increased investment out of the country.
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  4. #4
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    The good old days of attracting another industry to replace the one leaving are gone forever. Fewer companies are building new plants and the competition is fierce. Also they tend to prefer greenfields instead of trying to fit into an old obsolete factory.

    Talk with your state and see what they offer in job training for the displaced workers. Some cities have tried incubators and other business development tools with some success.

    The fact is these unskilled workers need job skills or $8-$10 an hour is all they can hope for.

    Is your city close to a larger city that can absorb the workers and some of the housing stock?
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    My work in a rust belt community found an unusually high number of single wage earner households. To survive the former $25/hour pay cut, both had to find $12/hr jobs.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    To echo what DetroitPlanner has to say, I noticed in Pittsburgh that many of the industries there now are spinoffs and specializations of what the mills did back before the 1970s. So, instead of producing tons and tons of steel and glass, you now have smaller, more agile companies that specialize in how to build with steel and glass. They don't produce the stuff, but they have a very in-depth knowledge about how the materials work and so lend their expertise as consultants, engineers and designers of buildings, bridges, etc. They have also embraced the green building movement and so are looking to specialize in addressing new demands they see on the horizon. Still, they have gone from 60 percent of the working population in heavy manufacturing to 10 percent in about 30 years. The reality, I think, is that many people with industrial experience and knowledge simply left the city and a new industry, but with a much smaller employment base, has emerged in its place

    Clearly, this economic shift is a difficult one and I don't think there is an easy answer. In Silver City, New Mexico, the Phelps-Dodge Santa Rita Copper Mine recently closed which was the largest employer in Dona Ana County. Many were retrained to work in tele-marketing, but the second largest employer (who dealt with some sort of communications technology I think) has also closed. The state college there has been overwhelmed with aplications from those laid-off trying to get new training for another career. The economy there is likely to get worse before it gets better, IMO, as there is very little economic potential in the area (difficult and unprofitable to farm, ranching opportunities are limited and those that do it are fading, no industry to speak of, very isolated regionally, etc.). The trend seems to be toward developing a retirement zone (as ranches close and are subdivided into 40 acre lots) which I guess could employ a lot of people in healthcare and other services for this demographic.
    The purpose of life is a life of purpose

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I think the first thing you need to do is to re-evaluate your perception of the skill level of these workers. There are really few "unskilled" workers in today's work force. Your list of unemployed likely includes many CNC machine operators and programmers, tool and die makers, mechanics, electricians, and others with desirable skills. That said, then evaluate your local economy to find potential opportunities based upon your best assets. You might continue to pursue widget manufacturing, for instance, but you could also consider related functions, such as technical support call centers and repair service centers for personal widgets.

    I have done a handful of these studies and have generally been able to identify 3-5 good opportunities in each place. We would usually then follow on the study with an economic development strategy to build the community's strengths. It should be seen as a multi-year effort. In most of these, the city had experienced a downturn.

    There is a change in work force mentality that often has to come with major economic shifts in a place. Workers often need to accept that a job is not an entitlement, that they need to modify themselves (skills, attitude, etc.) to get work. I am serious when I say that this can take three generations. The first (who are the ones who lose their jobs) may wallow in thier loss and never transition. The second (who is often raised on the prospect of good pay for easy to find manufacturing jobs) never makes it to that level and becomes disallusioned. The third generation hopefully is looking elsewhere.

    For a couple of the communities I worked with, the economic shifts were long enough in the past that wages were not a sticky issue. By this, I mean that recently unemployed (probably unionized) workers are used to seniority, vested benefits, and higher wages from having been with a company for many years. A new company will not open its doors and accept these people (unless they have critically needed skills) at that level. Let's say a starting welder makes $10 and an experienced one with several years on the job will earn $15. The average is $12. A new company will want to hire most of its people in the $10 to $12 range, as it knows it will have to provide training and expects that wages will rise as workers remain on the job. It will not want to saddle itself with a high-cost work force.
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