Are Manufacturers Also Too Big to Fail?
New York Times
July 21, 2009
If the Obama administration has a strategy for reviving manufacturing, Douglas Bartlett would like to
know what it is.
Buffeted by foreign competition, Mr. Bartlett recently closed his printed circuit board factory, founded 57
years ago by his father, and laid off the remaining 87 workers. Last week, he auctioned off the machinery,
and soon he will raze the factory itself in Cary, Ill.
“The property taxes are no longer affordable,” Mr. Bartlett said glumly, “so I am going to tear down the
building and sit on the land, and hopefully sell it after the
when land prices hopefully rise.”
Though manufacturing has long been in decline, the loss of factory jobs has been especially brutal of late,
with nearly two million disappearing since the recession began in December 2007. Even a few chief
executives, heading companies that have shifted plenty of production abroad, are beginning to express
“We must make a serious commitment to manufacturing and exports. This is a national imperative,”
Jeffrey R. Immelt
, chairman and chief executive of
, said in a speech last month, while
acknowledging that G.E. was enriched by its overseas operations too.
, agreeing in
effect, has declared, “The fight for American manufacturing is the fight for America’s future.”
The United States ranks behind every industrial nation except France in the percentage of overall
economic activity devoted to manufacturing — 13.9 percent, the
reports, down a percentage
point or so in a decade. The 19-month-old recession has contributed to this decline. Industrial production
has fallen 17.3 percent, the sharpest drop during a recession since the 1930s.