Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas?

I am on my annual pilgrimage to my hometown in Ohio. Christmas is not likely to be overly merry in this area. Chicago has it tough, but others have it tougher.

The car companies are shutting down for a month, and this is above and beyond the usual seasonal shutdowns (presumably a part of the UAW contract). Ohio has a number of automotive manufacturing plants. The future of the Ford Engine Plant in Brook Park, Ohio is unknown, but the prognosis is poor. The plant made cast-iron block engines, which have been replaced by cast aluminum engines. The manufacture of those engines is moving offshore. The site itself is horribly contaminated and rumored to become a future SuperFund site. A GM plant that built SUVs is being shuttered, laying off over 1K workers.

The fallout from the car companies extends beyond the plants themselves. My brother works for a company that makes auto brakes. He anticipates a pay cut, rather than a job cut, in the near future. Hopefully a job cut will not materialize.

Home sales are tanking and For Rent signs are springing up. I saw a sign - Rent/Share My Home. Could the boarding house be poised for a comeback? At least in Ohio?

The trip to Ohio was beautiful, if frigid, through Indiana. However, the number of travelers at tollway plazas, those oases of fuel and food, were about 1/3 to 1/2 of what I remember encountering last year at this time. It isn't the weather holding the travelers back.

We are facing a difficult transition. It will be painful, lengthy, and it will be hard to visualize a positive outcome, but it can happen. If we lose hope and quit trying to overcome the problems facing us, we will bring on the dark future we fear. We can deal with these issues, but doing so will require a new approach rather than an attempt to resume Business As Usual.

No comments: