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Main Street: Findlay, Ohio

How many times during the past several years have you heard one commentator or another express the same familiar lament? “We just don’t make anything anymore.” Of course, it’s not true. Not even close. No country exports more than the United States except China. What is true is that millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost, shipped overseas where labor costs are often dramatically lower.

And that’s had a profound effect on many factory towns across the United States, particularly in the industrial heartland— The Midwest.

What is the state of American manufacturing today? Is it coming back, as the president says? And will we be able to compete once again?

To learn more, Need to Know traveled to Findlay, Ohio, a manufacturing town that is still growing even as towns close by have struggled. Correspondent John Larson reports from Main Street. Maria Hinojosa anchors the broadcast.

Read the full transcript.

For more of the music featured on tonight’s show, visit

This program first aired April 12, 2013. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, May payroll employment increased by 175,000 and the jobless rate remained essentially unchanged (7.6%).


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  • Greg Lowell

    It’s northwestern OH, not northeastern. Can’t wait!

  • NTK editor

    Thanks, Greg! The correction has been appended.

  • Ed159

    I was wondering where are the people of color. I did not see one person of color in Findlay Ohio.

  • tired

    $90,000 in an entry level job???? and we wonder why jobs go overseas?? We need to be more realistic tying $ to skill. Do not blame the individual as everyone becomes accustomed to their salary but really???

  • Anonymous

    When you hear these number you have to get the details. Many factories that work 3-shifts per day, allow prior shift workers to “fill-in” for the next shift workers that are no-shows for that day. While seniority usually determined who got to work daylight shift, there were rate increases for working the less desirable evening and graveyard. In addition, Sunday and holiday also paid a higher rate.

    In any case, many folks willingly worked OT, taking advantage of the shift differentials and any OT bonus, which resulted in very healthy pay checks. Just like workers that maximize the company contribution their 401(K) plans.

    In addition, in the story they quoted a Cooper Tire press release that stated an annual employee cost of $61,000. Based on a typical estimate of 50% for fringe benefit costs, that would put the employee gross salary at ~40,000 or $20 per hour. Remember, the cost of health insurance is $10,000 to $14,000.

  • Anonymous

    Old town, old factories…….the “young” working people in this story were in their early 50′s. When they started work, the late 1970′s and early 80′s, places like Findlay, OH were nearly all white.

  • Stephen R

    Good story. $90k is a bit excessive for an entry level unskilled worker.However, exorbitant salaries CEO’s are currently pulling down are immoral by any measure. I often wonder why there isn’t a more critical look at trade policy and its impact on manufacturing in America. For instance, why is it that the US is the only member of the G20 that does not have an import tax? ‘Globalization’ is a term used by many that benefit from this arrangement to mask this little known fact that is one of the primary contributors to the destruction of the middle class..

  • George J.

    Technological unemployment is the real killer of jobs. It’s ironic how, as our productivity explodes, we also experience diminishing purchasing power because the work force is, and has been, at least since WW I, slowly replaced by machines and automated technology.

    Unfortunately the inhumanity is overlooked as the way things are, or have to be, every time a worker is displaced by technology.

    We can continue down this path of using technology to benefit a few, and see more disequilibrium, or we can embrace technology and apply it towards abundance.

    We really do live in a Jetson’s world after all. Too bad it’s in the hands of

  • Anonymous

    Interesting, the tidbit that’s recalled from this story is the two annual income estimates from the workers. For heaven sakes, please do the follow-up and explore how these guys made the that much money. For reference, a UAW machinist at Caterpillar made perhaps $22/hr in 1983. IAM machinists made about $10~11/hr at that time. In either case, based on a 2000-hr work year, those salaries were either $44 or 22,000 per year, not $75 to 90,000. Those salaries were only possible for the guys that were working at the OT that they could pull in. They made good money for being reliable workers and keeping the line moving. Besides, one guy working two shifts only carries the fringe benefits costs of one man. In the end it’s cheaper pay the good workers OT and lay-off the slackers.

    The real issue addressed by the show was the decline in wages. Today, a top flight machinist will be lucky to find a job that pays $22/hr with a very modest benefits package. Health insurance isn’t to be expected and an employer match to the 401(k) saving plan is pretty much a forgotten dream. A few days of paid vacation is considered a top tier benefit.

  • enviromary

    Shale gas extraction may be the source of cheap natural gas for a few years until the industry manages to lay thousands of miles of pipelines and build huge export terminals to ship gas overseas where they can get $17 rather than $4. The methane released in extraction and transportation of gas exacerbates climate instability and uses resources that could be devoted to a permanent boom based on building, installing, and selling locally generated renewable energy.

    Are we willing to sacrifice our ecosystems, agriculture and quality of life to the fossil fuel industry? Any investment in exhaustable natural gas and its infrastructure ultimately delays development of alternatives.

    The drawbacks of natural gas deserve more than a sentence describing hydrofracking as “environmentally controversial.”

  • Greg Lowell

    I’m originally from near there. The minority population exists but is vanishingly small. It wouldn’t be strange to go a day seeing only white people.

  • Anonymous

    If our jobs are dependent on cheap natural resources and the extraction industries, then we are in the same “boat” as we were in 1973 when all of our cars required great quantities of cheap gasoline and our houses had no insulation.

    The suggestion that these new jobs are dependent on cheap fuel, mean that our labor rates can only exceed those of the oversea market by the fuel shipping costs. Otherwise, the fuel producers would have to forgo the potential profits of selling to the highest priced market.

  • Gerard Cannon

    This program missed the bulk of the reason why manufacturing has left the
    U.S. and also the main reason we are in the economic situation we are. All
    nations that have signed the GATT agreement–most of them world wide including
    China, Germany, and Japan–get an automatic two and a half percent tariff on
    imported goods. Many of these same countries on the other hand turn around and
    charge U.S. based goods exorbitant import tariffs. In the auto industry detroit
    sees import tariffs that range upwards of 15 to 20 percent in China. NO
    industry can compete with an 18 percent profit disadvantage. It is irrelevant
    how much the factory workers get paid or how much natural gas costs when there
    is a difference in import tariff. I recall Perot publicly stating in the 80s
    that we needed to fix our foreign trade policy or our country would be in
    financial ruin shortly. Here we are.

    The democrats as well as republicans know this has been a problem for decades.
    They aren’t stupid; they’re paid. GM’s lobbyists can’t compete with China’s or
    Japan’s lobbyists; its a handful of companies vs. entire countries. If the
    current administration truly wanted to fix our economy they simply would have
    told China and all the other nations we trade with that from here on out our
    tariffs for their goods will be the same as the tariffs they place on ours AND
    if the country in question uses child labor or pollutes we would bump the
    tariff to accommodate the unfair advantage they might have over our companies
    here in the U.S.. Worried about consumer prices? How about a phased approach.

    Can you imagine??? Jobs would have FLOCKED

    to the U.S. and in a VERY short amount of time with NO MONEY spent the

    U.S. economy would have EXPLODED!

    For those worried about consumer prices it doesn’t matter if the product
    imported is “cheap”. Because the product is manufactured and probably
    headquartered in another country first all the world wide revenue taxes are
    LOST and second nothing is “free”. The “cheap” prices allow
    revenue and GDP to flow OUT OF the U.S. meaning that the trade off in “cheap”
    product devalues our dollar and decreases our tax base DIRECTLY. Nothing is

    Don’t believe all the spin the media puts out. Vote libertarian, the rest are
    paid off.

  • findlaynative

    The 90K @ Cooper included working both Sat and Sun on overtime. Now that they have gone to continuos operations all of that overtime is gone and their wages have gone down. Most of the folks based their lives on working 7 days per week. Also, Cooper is a piece rate shop the 26K is the base salary but a worker can make much more that that.

  • Anonymous

    I got so sick of listening to “Free Trade.” I always felt that a “Balance of Trade” is what is needed with China. I understand that another problem is that China manipulates its money to give them advantage. We are being chumps.

  • Charles Fyffe

    While it may be true, that the U.S. exports more than any other country, the fact is most of those exports,are financially subsidized by the American taxpayers, and they mostly consist of agricultural products that most of those countries are in desperat need.
    And as a matter of fact, if we exported more than any other country, we wouldn’ have a fifty billion dollar annual trade deficit with communist china,an eighteen billion dollar annual trade deficit with Canada and Mexico and a monthly trade deficit of twenty three billion dollars with the rest of the world, all of which has now brought our country to the brink of economic,financial and industrial annihilation where it stands today.

  • Why Bother

    If we want more jobs to be created in this country, maybe, why do I even try to say, why don’t we quit thinking that the creators only come out of college. You all want the next “BIG THING”, that could create jobs, why don’t the so-called elite, open some kind of thing, where people with ideas, would not be held back, could go, that would create millions of jobs. That person or persons, might, just might, have more than 1 invention. Man, when are we ever going to learn. Let me think…, “NEVER”. Never?, Never Ever?, Ever,…ever?.