On the way to Wilmington using the smaller roads off the Interstate I found it depressing to note so many of what appeared to have been small manufacturing businesses shut down.
Empty parking lots told the story of what was probably a previously bustling business and a source of jobs no longer there. In some of the smaller towns, one could see the effects of losing an industry, however small it may have been, with deserted stores and shops and gas stations out of business.
Some of the factories still had identifying signs hanging on the building advertising a company I had never heard of but who obviously had been part of their community. A few of the buildings were pretty slick looking and probably built prior to the current recession. One could only guess what hustle and bustle took place in these buildings. Even their empty parking lots seemed to be haunted by the ghosts of times past. Had we not been in a rush to get to Wilmington it might have been worthwhile to take some pictures to document the empty buildings. Just what was the gizmo or gadget had they manufactured? Tractor wheel rims, flashlights, dies for machines, plumbing, mothballs, diesel injectors, outdoor BBQ’s? In passing I could only guess.
Each company had a story to tell, not only about the entrepreneurial people who founded them but the lives and families of the people who labored there. At days end, they all went home to supper and watched the world unfold before them on their television just like the rest of us, filled with the satisfaction of having put in a good days work.
We can blame part of the recession on the government for requiring banks to make loans to folks who otherwise couldn’t afford to buy a home and no question that this played a part in our current economic dilemma when buyers discovered they couldn’t afford the monthly payments. We can blame the realtors who sold the homes folks couldn’t afford, the appraisers who inflated the values of the homes and the mortgage brokers who bundled them up and sold them to the investment banks. In the end, it was a boom but as with all booms, it inevitably collapsed.
But the story of these closed down small factories is a different story because the vast majority of them made things that we can now buy cheaper from China. Cheaper Chinese products probably played as much of a role as anything else in sinking our economy, closing down those small manufacturers.
Lower labor costs allow China to turn out cheaper goods which we buy knowing full well that we are costing American jobs. We are doing it to ourselves, shooting ourselves in the foot by buying Chinese goods.
With higher minimum wages here, we’ll buy even more Chinese goods, all very sad indeed. We never seem to learn.
Bob Wilson — Franklin, N.C.