Need to Know: April 12. 2013: Full episode transcript

Need to Know
Episode 315
Airdate: April 12, 2013

ANNOUNCER [narration]: THIS IS NEED TO KNOW WITH… JEFF GREENFIELD…SCOTT SIMON… RAY SUAREZ… AND THIS WEEK MARIA HINOJOSA.

MARIA HINOJOSA [narration]: ON THIS EDITION … MAIN STREET: FINDLAY OHIO.

JOHN LARSON: Twenty six thousand. That’s probably within– if– if they have families, that’s probably within eyesight, at least, of the poverty line.

RODNEY NELSON: It’s right there, at the poverty line.

MARIA HINOJOSA [narration]: BUT DOWN DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN OUT

CHRIS RENN: Just in Northwestern Ohio alone, it’s estimated there’s gonna be 59,000 job openings in manufacturing. Most industry that we talk with– they have no idea where they’re gonna find those workers.

MARIA HINOJOSA [narration]: ON THE REBOUND. NEXT ON NEED TO KNOW.

FUNDER BED
MARIA HINOJOSA: Welcome to Need to Know. Thanks for joining us. It’s great to be with you. We begin this week with a question: 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? Recently, a Need to Know team 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.

ERIC MCKEE: I was doin’ stuff for friends and stuff like that– for free. And they’re like, “Man, you need to open up a bike shop.” So– so we did. Sometimes they’re very touchy. Takes a while to dial it in just perfectly.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: At Muddy River BICYCLE COMPANY, at 403 SOUTH Main Street IN FINDLAY OHIO, EIGHTH GENERATION FINDLAY-ITE Eric McKee runs A family business.

Eric MCKEE: Thanks, Dad.

ERIC’S Dad comes in a couple times of week, his wife and kids work here too.

Eric MCKEE: You’re going to have to find room out on the floor.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: WE’VE COME TO his hometown, FINDLAY in NORTHWESTERN OHIO, TO LEARN WHAT WE CAN ABOUT AMERICAN MANUFACTURING, about ITS a new promise of factory jobs, and what might MEAN IN THIS TOWN OF JUST OVER 40 THOUSand — for the middle class – which in findlay, BY THE WAY – still builds things.

Eric MCKEE: I could do it right now, you want to wait?

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: we begin in eric’s modern shop because if you take a look AROUND you get a quick lesson in globalization. Even the American brands of bicycles here – aren’t really american – take this one, for example.

ERIC MCKEE: It’s a bicycle that’s a designed and engineered in Orange County, California, but as we look closer at the saddle, the saddle is made in Taiwan, the tires are an Italian company manufactured in Thailand, the wheel set is a French company, probably manufactured in France. The components that we have here are Shimano from Japan, but manufactured in China, Malaysia and Singapore…

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: AT LEAST SIX INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES MAKING PARTS IN EIGHT DIFFERENT COUNTRIES. REMEMBER, IT WASN’T TOO LONG AGO…

COMMERCIAL NAT: “its Schwinn bike time again boys and girls…”

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: THAT MANUFACTURING BICYCLES WAS ALMOST ENTIRELY DONE BY AMERICAN FACTORY WORKERS. NOT ANYMORE.

COMMERCIAL NAT: “You can see your Schwinn dealer for bikes and parts and accessories, too.”

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: The loss of American manufacturing – AROUND THE MIDWEST and across the COUNTRY – has been stunning. 2 million manufacturing jobs lost since the beginning of the recession. MORE THAN 7 MILLION lost since THE peak in 1979 – and Many of those jobs –- went overseas for one primary reason — cheap labor.

ALLAN HOKE: He had worked at America Standard for, I don’t know, 25 years, so he was kinda stressed about what kind of work he was gonna find and that kind a thing,

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: AT DON’S BARBER SHOP AT 348 N. MAIN, YOU REALIZE – IN A TOWN THIS SIZE – EVERYONE SEEMS TO KNOW EVERYBODY.

JOHN LARSON: So when you’re walking around town, are you just kinda always lookin’ at people’s heads?

JOHN THE BARBER: Oh, yeah. I can’t help it. Yep. Even– even people I don’t know. How’d that person go about cutting their hair? Oh yeah, can’t help it.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: AND, EVERYBODY SEEMS TO KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAD A FACTORY JOB, AND LOST IT.

JOHN ELCHERT: Dad was a third generation employee at American Standard, my Grandpa and Great Grandpa worked there and quite a few of his brothers worked there so, you know they didn’t know anything else…

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: THREE WEEKS before Christmas in 2007, American Standard announced that after manufacturing toilets in nearby Tiffin since the 1890’s, it was closing its plant. THE LAST 200 jobs…. gone.

JOHN ELCHERT: And they made a good living at it for a lot of years, but he had a pretty good attitude about, you know, I think he was maybe ready for a little change…

JOHN LARSON [narration]: AS WE LISTEN TO FINDLAY MUSICIAN, JOSH WOODWARD, IT IS SAFE TO SAY THAT WHAT IS STILL HAPPENING IN FINDLAY, AND ON MAIN STREETS ACROSS THE COUNTRY IS MORE THAN JUST “A LITTLE CHANGE”. MIDDLE CLASS JOBS WERE THE LARGEST CASUALTY OF THE RECENT RECESSION, AND HAVE NOT RECOVERED AS FAST AS THEY DISAPPEARED. UNIONS – HERE, AND IN MOST TOWNS – HAVE SEEN THEIR INFLUENCE DIMINISH. AND MANY AMERICANS FEEL CAUGHT BY FORCES BIGGER AND MORE COMPLEX THAN ANY MACHINE.

JEFF STAHL: Alright, hang on a sec, I got to feed it through…

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: JEFF STAHL HAS WORKED FOR 25 YEARS IN A LOCAL TIRE FACTORY, AND EVEN THOUGH HE’S A MEMBER OF THE ONCE POWERFUL UNITED STEELWORKERS UNION, MOST WEEKS, HE’S WORKS A SECOND JOB.

JEFF STAHL: Am I still straight?

JOHN LARSON: Sort of moonlightin’.

JEFF STAHL: Basically, right. Yeah.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: JEFF LIVES WITH HIS WIFE TAMMY IN A HANDSOME, WELL KEPT HOME AT 2428 SOUTH MAIN. TOGETHER, THEY’VE HAVE RAISED 3 KIDS AND SENT THEM TO COLLEGE. MUCH OF IT, THANKS TO JEFF’S UNION JOB AT THE COOPER TIRE PLANT IN FINDLAY, THE OLDEST TIRE FACTORY IN THE UNITED STATES.

JEFF STAHL: ….basically everything I have is– come from Cooper Tire. I mean, I’ve worked hard there but if it wasn’t for Cooper I wouldn’t have what I had today.

JOHN LARSON: So when you first entered the company in your mid- to late 20s, what was your salary back then?

JEFF STAHL: Probably $75,000 or–

JOHN LARSON: So money was good?

JEFF STAHL: –or better actually. It was actually a lot higher, probably more like 90– $90,000-

JOHN LARSON: So as young man you were rollin’ in it?

JEFF STAHL: Yeah– oh, yeah. Right.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: BUT THAT WAS BEFORE COOPER BEGAN CUTTING NEW EMPLOYEE PAY, RETIREMENT, AND HEALTH BENEFITS WITH ALMOST EVERY NEW CONTRACT. JEFF AND HIS FELLOW UNION WORKERS EVENTUALLY MADE 30 MILLION DOLLARS IN CONCESSIONS, AND AGREED TO WORK 12 HOUR SHIFTS, IT WAS HARD ON THE OLDER WORKERS LIKE JEFF, WHO’S 52.

JEFF STAHL: You know, they don’t stand at the door and hand the money to you when you walk in. You work for the money. You work hard. It’s heavy lifting, continuous hard work, beats your body down. Most of the guys now my age, they have somethin’ wrong with their body. They limp. You know, we’re all sore and tired at the end of the day. Twelve hours is a long day in there.

RALLY NAT: What do we want? Contracts! When do we want it? Now.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: AND THEN, IN 2011, WITH THE UNION’S CONTRACT ABOUT TO EXPIRE AND NEGOTIATIONS AT A STANDSTILL, THE COMPANY LOCKED OUT ITS 1000 UNION WORKERS, AND BROUGHT IN REPLACEMENT LABOR. IT EVENTUALLY SUCCEEDED IN LOCKING IN LOWER WAGES AND BENEFITS FOR THE NEW HIRES. WHILE JEFF ONCE WAS ABLE TO MAKE 90 THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR AS AN UNSKILLED NEW HIRE, AN UNSKILLED NEW HIRE NOW MAKES 26 THOUSAND A YEAR.

JOHN LARSON: Twenty six thousand. That’s probably within– if– if they have families, that’s probably within eyesight, at least, of poverty line.

RODNEY NELSON: It’s right there, at the poverty line.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: RODNEY NELSON REPRESENTS THE 1000 UNION STEELWORKERS EMPLOYED AT THE COOPER PLANT

RODNEY NELSON: It’s a– it’s a struggle, and we got to keep our– lowerin’ our costs– but we can’t get down– so low on wages that– that we can’t survive.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: THE UNITED STATES HAS LOST AT LEAST 8000 TIRE MANUFACTURING JOBS SINCE 2004. MANY, CASUALTIES OF CHEAP TIRES IMPORTED FROM CHINA.

RODNEY NELSON: Got a motion here for the suspending the reading of the minutes…

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: FINDLAY’S TIRE WORKERS FEARED THEIR JOBS COULD BE NEXT. BUT, A CHANGE OCCURRED AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION PLACED A 3 YEAR TARRIFF ON CHINESE TIRES ENTERING THE U.S IN 2009. THE MOVE RAISED THE PRICE OF TIRES, HURTING AMERICAN CONSUMERS STILL REELING FROM THE RECESSION. TIRE COMPANIES JUST SHIFTED MANUFACTURING FROM CHINA TO OTHER COUNTRIES WHERE LABOR WAS CHEAP, AND BEGAN IMPORTING MORE INEXPENSIVE TIRES FROM THOSE COUNTRIES. NONETHELESS, THE TIRE WORKERS WE SPOKE WITH IN FINDLAY REMAIN CONVINCED – THE TARIFFS HELPED SAVED THEIR JOBS.

JOHN LARSON: The idea was to protect American jobs. You feel like they did that?

RODNEY NELSON: Absolutely.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: BUT THERE IS A PROBLEM. THE TARRIFS ENDED IN SEPTEMBER, AND SINCE THEN – COOPER TIRE – WITH PLANTS IN CHINA, MEXICO AND SERBIA – HAS BEGUN FURLOUGHING ITS WORKERS FOR 2 DAYS, THREE DAYS, A WEEK AT A TIME. LESS WORK, EVERY MONTH, AND THERE’S NOTHING THE UNION CAN DO ABOUT IT.

JOHN LARSON: So under this contract, they can essentially lay you off any time they want to?

RODNEY NELSON: That’s correct.

JOHN LARSON: And in the end, your wages keep slippin’, as a result?

RODNEY NELSON: Yep.

RETIREE: I enjoyed working for Cooper in the early years, I really did.

EVERYONE WE SPOKE WITH, INCLUDING THESE RETIREES DESCRIBED A SHIFT IN CORPORATE CULTURE.

RETIREE: You gotta take care of your people if you want your business to go, and they used to do that back for us

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: … A DISMANTLING OF THE CLOSE COMPANY FAMILY THEY ONCE ENJOYED WHERE TOP OFFICERS HAD PICNICS WITH WORKERS, OR SHARED A BEER AFTER WORK.

RETIREE: They used to have family day, they did away with that. They had a 25 year club, they did away with that. They’ve taken all the family part of Cooper away.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: WHEN COOPER LOCKED OUT ITS WORKERS IN 2011, THE COMPANY PUBLISHED A LETTER SAYING THE PLANT WAS “ONE OF THE HIGHEST COMPENSATED…IN THE U.S.” THAT THE AVERAGE HOURLY EMPLOYEE EARNED “OVER $61,000 IN TOTAL WAGES” AND ENJOYED A “HANDSOME BENEFITS PACKAGE.”

THE DESCENDANTS OF THE COMPANY’S FOUNDER HOWEVER, ALSO WROTE A PUBLIC LETTER WHICH STILL HANGS ON THE UNION WALL.

“DEAR MR. ARMES” THE LETTER BEGAN ADRESSING THE CURRENT CEO. THE COMPANY’S FOUNDER DROVE A “1936 PLYMOUTH… UNTIL THE DAY HE RETIRED”…AND “DID NOT TAKE A HUGE RETIREMENT PACKAGE”. AND FELT A “RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE WELL-BEING OF NOT ONLY THE SHAREHOLDERS, BUT THE WORKERS AND THE COMMUNITY.”

THE LETTER THEN CALLED THE COMPANY’S LOCKOUT AND TREATMENT OF ITS WORKERS, “CALLOUS” AND “UN-AMERICAN AT THE CORE.”

NEED TO KNOW WANTED TO HEAR THE COMPANY’S SIDE – WE WONDERED HOW RISING MEDICAL COSTS AND INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION MAY HAVE INFLUENCED THEIR DECISIONS. BUT IT’S DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS SENT A TWO SENTENCE RESPONSE, SAYING THE COMPANY WOULD “DELCINE YOUR REQUEST FOR AN INTERVIEW AT THIS TIME.” TWO WEEKS LATER COOPER TIRE AGAIN TEMPORARILY LAID OFF ONE THOUSAND OF ITS FINDLAY FACTORY WORKERS FOR ANOTHER 8 DAYS.

JOHN LARSON: And what about the argument that– that times are changing, American industry has to be more competitive– you know, labor costs have to come down as– as every other medical cost go up, that kind of stuff?

JEFF STAHL: You know, the foreign countries don’t pay their people near the labor that we earn here in America. And I think they’re tryin’ to make that happen here. You know, the– the more money they can stick in their pockets and take away from the labor, the better off for them.

JOHN LARSON: What of the argument that– that maybe, back in the day, you abused a good thing? That guys just wound up makin’ too much money. You know, $90,000, maybe $100,000 out on the– out on the floor?

RODNEY NELSON: Well, nobody complains about how much those CEOs are– are– are makin’. We just had one here in town the other day that had a $20 million bonus. And our CEOs, you know, in my company are doin’ very well.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: IN FACT, THE CEO OF MARATHON PETROLEUM ON FINDLAY’S MAIN STREET LAST YEAR DID COLLECT MORE THAN 20 MILLION DOLLARS IN COMPENSATION. THE CEO OF COOPER TIRE, THE SAME MR. ARMES MENTIONED IN THE LETTER COLLECTED NEARLY 7 MILLION DOLLARS IN COMPENSATION – ALMOST HALF OF THAT AS A PERFORMANCE BONUS. BECAUSE WHILE COOPER TIRE HAS CUT AVERAGE WAGES AND BENEFITS FOR ITS FACTORY WORKERS IN FINDLAY, IT’S PROFITS IN NORTH AMERICA LAST YEAR NEARLY TRIPLED, ITS STOCK SOARED. WALL STREET LOVED IT. MAIN STREET, NOT SO MUCH.

JOHN LARSON: How much hope do you have– for the economic future?

JEFF STAHL: I don’t have much hope. I mean, you know, it is what it is. I fear for my kids, you know, what they’re gonna face in the future. Just the future’s not bright.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: BUT THE STRUGGLE AT COOPER TIRE IS NOT THE ONLY STORY HERE. BECAUSE EVEN WITH ALL ITS DIFFICULTIES, COOPER TIRE HAS NOT ONLY STUCK IT OUT IN FINDLAY, BUT WILL OPEN A NEW RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT FACILITY HERE. IN THIS WAY, FINDLAY IS AT THE CENTER OF ANOTHER, SURPRISING DEVELOPMENT. AFTER DECADES OF DECLINE – THE NUMBER OF AMERICAN MANUFACTURING JOBS IS RISING. AMERICAN FACTORY JOBS ARE ACTUALLY COMING BACK.

FINDLAY WITH 150 MANUFACTURING FACILITIES, HAS BEEN UNUSUALLY SUCCESSFUL AT ATTRACTING FACTORY WORK. WHIRLPOOL, AT 4901 NORTH MAIN STREET IS THE LARGEST DISHWASHER PLANT IN THE WORLD. IT EMPLOYS MORE THAN 2,000 PEOPLE. AND LAST YEAR IT ADDED 114 NEW EMPLOYEES, AND BECAME PART OF A STORY MUCH BIGGER THAN FINDLAY, AFFECTING THOUSAND OF COMPANIES AND POTENTIALLY MILLIONS OF WORKERS.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: After shedding jobs for more than 10 years, our manufacturers have added about 500,000 jobs over the past three. Caterpillar is bringing jobs back from Japan. Ford is bringing jobs back from Mexico. And this year, Apple will start making Macs in America again.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: WHILE ONE CAN ARGUE HOW MUCH THE PRESIDEnt OR HIS ADMINISTRATION had to do with IT, at least 220 American companies have reportedly brought an estimated 50,000 jobs back to the US since January of 2010 — most coming from China. BUT WHY NOW, AFTER decades of losing FACTORY jobs?

GREG ARBURN: It’s potentially enormous.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: Dr. Greg ARBURN is a professor of economics at the University of Findlay, on Main Street. He says, American manufacturing is returning in part because OF the tremendous EXPANSION OF domestic oil and gas production.

GREG ARBURN: For the United States, the cost of– of natural gas is much lower than it is for a lot of our competitors. Japan, the price of natural gas, China, the price of natural gas is more in the $17 range, where here in the United States it’s more in the three and a half dollar range for a million BTU. That’s a huge advantage. That’s—

JOHN LARSON: So six times less expensive here in U.S.?

GREG ARBURN: That– that’s– that’s a big deal.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: IT’S NOT A COINCIDENCE THAT MARATHON PETROLEUM IS HEADQUARTED ON FINDLAY’S MAIN STREET. IN THE LATE 1800’S THE COMPANY FORMED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RICH LOCAL OIL AND GAS FIELDS AND MANUFACTURING RUSHED TO FINDLAY, TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CHEAP, EVEN FREE ENERGY.

NOW, IT APPEARS IT MAY BE HAPPENING AGAIN. NEW TECHOLOGY OF HYDRAULIC FRACTURING AND SHALE OIL RECOVERY, WHILE ENVIRONMENTALLY CONTROVERSIAL, HAS TRIGGED UNPRECEDENTED OIL AND GAS DISCOVERIES, DROPPED THE PRICE OF ENERGY, AND LAUNCHED WHAT ARBURN AND OTHERS BELIEVE MAY BE A NEW ERA OF AMERICAN FACTORY JOBS.

GREG ARBURN: In the case of Ohio– estimates are t– range wildly from 20,000 to 200,000 jobs in Ohio over the next three years — especially in the natural gas industry.

JOHN LARSON: Even if you take the average of that, you’re talking about a hundred thousand jobs just in this state.

GREG ARBURN: That’s a boom. That’s a lotta jobs. That’s a lot of people with more income –puts kids through school.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: a second reason for manufacturing growth is that American corporations are investing in technology helping American labor become even more efficient.

GREG ARBURN: One of the things that’s happened, is interest rates have gone down and gone down and gone down. And so firms have found themselves in a situation where th– with a– with a very reasonable cost and capital, they can adapt new technologies, make capital investments, become even more productive.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: TAKE ONE LOOK AT THE BALL CORPORATION’S CAN MANUFACTURING PLANT JUST A BLOCK OFF MAIN. 24 HOURS A DAY. 7 DAYS A WEEK. 3000 CANS A MINUTE. 3 BILLION A YEAR – ITS THE LARGEST RECYCLABLE ALUMINUM CAN MANUFACTURER IN THE WORLD. BUT JUST LAST YEAR BALL INVESTED ANOTHER $14.6 MILLION DOLLARS HERE TO BRING IN MORE LINES AND FURTHER IMPROVE ITS TECHNOLOGY. THE FACTORY’S EFFICIENCY JUMPED TO UNPRECEDENTED LEVELS.

GLENN JOST: There’s a drive. All of us want to succeed. Every plant I know of out there in our division wants to do better.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: GLENN JOST IS THE PLANT’S MANAGER. BALL RECENTLY CLOSED PLANTS IN OHIO AND FLORIDA, BUT EXPANDED THE PLANT IN FINDLAY, ADDING 30 NEW EMPLOYEES. STILL THE MASSIVE PLANT IS SO EFFICIENT THERE ARE ONLY 90 EMPLOYEES ON THE FACTORY FLOOR.

JOHN LARSON: My first reaction when I saw it was, “Wow.” And my second reaction was sorta, “Where is everybody?” You know, I expected to see 1,000 people running around these machines.

GLENN JOST: The machines to a degree run by themselves. But they don’t run unless we have people capable of programming those machines, people capable of keeping them running mechanically. Electronically, yes. It looks like it runs by itself but it doesn’t.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: THESE HIGHLY SKILLED WORKERS OPERATE PROGRAMMABLE LOGIC CONTROLS – SOPHISTICATED COMPUTER SYSTEMS – THAT AUTOMATE THE PRODUCTION LINE, AND MAKE ADJUSTMENTS DOWN TO A MILLIONTH OF AN INCH.

AND THEN THERE ARE WAGES. JOBS ARE RETURNING TO THE U.S. IN PART BECAUSE WAGES IN CHINA ARE RISING, WHILE NATIONALLY MANUFACTING WAGES HERE IN THE U.S. ARE FALLING. GOVERNMENT STATISTICS FOR THE FINDLAY AREA REFLECT THIS, SHOWING WAGES IN LOCAL MANUFACTURING ARE SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER THAN SERVICE INDUSTRY JOBS, FOR EXAMPLE – BUT NOT AS HIGH AS SOME MIGHT THINK, AND THE MANUFACTURING WAGES HERE ARE DROPPING.

CHRIS RENN: Their benefits package in industry is still gonna be better than if they worked in the service industry. But the reality is, all of us are– are struggling with health care and the expense of health care and the benefits packages probably are not what they used to be– all across the board.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: FEW ARE MORE FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE OF INDUSTRY WAGES AND JOBS THAN CHRIS RENN, DIRECTOR OF FINDLAY’S MILLSTREAM CAREER CENTER.

IN 2007 THE BLANCHARD RIVER JUMPED ITS BANKS AND FLOODED FINDLAY – ONE OF THE WORST FLOODS OF THE YEAR IN THE MIDWEST. AFTER THE FLOOD, HOWEVER, VOTERS APPROVED THIS NEW 19 MILLION HIGHSCHOOL FOCUSED ON TECHNICAL TRAINING – PREPARING STUDENTS FOR A FUTURE IN, AMONG OTHERS THINGS, MANUFACTURING.

CHRIS RENN: Just in northwestern Ohio alone, over the next seven years it’s estimated there’s gonna be 59,000 job openings in manufacturing. That’s gigantic, and– most industry that we talk with– they have no idea where they’re gonna find those workers.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: RENN IS HOPING THEY FIND THEM HERE. HIS STUDENTS ARE WORKING WITH COMPUTER AIDED DESIGN … THREE DIMENSIONAL PRINTING… AND ROBOTICS.

WALK AROUND THE SCHOOL AND YOU SEE STATE OF THE ART FACILITIES WHICH RENN SAYS PREPARE STUDENTS FOR COLLEGE, OR FOR MORE IMMEDIATE CAREERS IN MANUFACTURING. IT’S WELDING CLASS, FOR EXAMPLE, WAS WORKING ON A BRIDGE – DESIGNED BY STUDENTS.

CHRIS RENN: In our welding program– we graduate 22 seniors every year and we have 100% job placement rate with our welding program.

JOHN LARSON: You mean every one of ‘em?

CHRIS RENN: Every single one of ‘em.

JOHN LARSON: Has a job?

CHRIS RENN: Has a job.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: … A JOB THAT STARTS AT 18 DOLLARS AN HOUR, RIGHT OUT OF HIGHSCHOOL. WHICH IS WHY RENN BELIEVES TECHNICAL TRAINING IS SUDDENLY CRITICAL TO THE NEW MANUFACTURING BLOOMING IN OHIO.

CHRIS RENN: The biggest misconception out there in the general public is you have to have a four year degree from a college to get a good paying job. And industry tells us that’s the farthest thing from the truth. Skilled labor is what they’re after.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: BUT THE GREATER QUESTION FACING THOSE ON MAIN STREETS ACROSS THE COUNTRY, OF COURSE, IS HOW GOOD WILL THESE NEW JOBS BE? REPORTS SUGGEST A RECENT TREND TOWARDS HIGH SKILL, HIGHER WAGE JOBS. SOME ARE OPTIMISTIC.

GLENN JOST: Yesterday I had lunch with six of our employees. One of ‘em was a relatively new gentleman to the plant. You could see where he’s planning out his future, possibly buying a house, growing a family. But you could see in his eyes, he’s got a future in this plant, and he does.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: OTHERS, WHO ONCE FELT PART OF A RISING MIDDLE CLASS, ARE NOT SO SURE. .

JEFF STAHL: The view from Main Street is definitely a concern and hopefully we can keep the future bright.

JOHN LARSON: Don’t sound real sure.

JEFF STAHL: I’m not sure. You know, I’m not sure. I’m not sure what tomorrow’s gonna bring.

JOHN THE BARBER: It feels that– manufacturing is picking up some. But it– on the same token, I’m not so sure that the wages are pickin’ up any.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: AND THAT’S ONE OF MANY TRUTHS – JOBS ARE COMING BACK, IN PART BECAUSE OF LOWER ENERGY COSTS, IN PART BECAUSE WAGES ARE DROPPING. CORPORATE PROFITS ARE FOR MANY AT RECORD HIGHS, WHILE THOSE WHO HAVE WORKED THE LINES IN BOTH CHAPTERS OF AMERICAN FACTORY WORK –PAST AND PRESENT – FEEL THE SQUEEZE.

JEFF STAHL: It doesn’t seem like they’re doin’ anything to help middle class America. I mean, I know they always talk about that’s one of the main goals. But it just seems like we’re forgotten.

JOHN LARSOn [narration]: IT’S BEEN YEARS SINCE LIFE ON MAIN STREET WAS SIMPLE, IF IT EVER REALLLY WAS. BUT IN FINDLAY, YOU GET THE SENSE THAT DISTANT, COMPLEX FORCES ARE AT WORK – BIGGER THAN ANY ONE WORKER, STRONGER THAN EVEN THE RIVER WHICH FLOODED THE TOWN. THE HARD WORKING PEOPLE OF FINDLAY, MAY HELP WRITE A NEW, HOPEFUL CHAPTER FOR AMERICAN MANUFACTURING. BUT FOR MOST OF THEM, – IT IS STILL AN UNWRITTEN STORY… WITH LARGELY UNKNOW RULES, AND RISING DEMANDS.

RODNEY NELSON: They’re very hardworkin’ people, and they just wanna continue to work. They wanna support their families, they– they wanna be able to make it to retirement, and they want to enjoy life and they just want to keep workin’, and keep providin’.

MARIA HINOJOSA [narration]: THIS WEEK ONLINE…TAKE PART IN OUR WEEKLY POLL. THE TOPIC: ECONOMIC IMPROVEMENT. VISIT PBS.ORG/NEED TO KNOW.

MARIA HINOJOSA: That’s it for this edition of Need to Know. Ray Suarez will be with you next week. I’m Maria Hinojosa. Thanks for watching.

 
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Comments

  • Enviromary

    Now cheap energy (fossil) will fuel manufacturing; too bad these plants produce few or no jobs and destroy the environment and produce climate instability!

    From the transcript!
    JOHN LARSOn [narration]: Dr. Greg ARBURN is a professor of economics at the University of Findlay, on Main Street. He says, American manufacturing is returning in part because OF the tremendous EXPANSION OF domestic oil and gas production.

    GREG ARBURN: For the United States, the cost of– of natural gas is much lower than it is for a lot of our competitors. Japan, the price of natural gas, China, the price of natural gas is more in the $17 range, where here in the United States it’s more in the three and a half dollar range for a million BTU. That’s a huge advantage. That’s—

    JOHN LARSON: So six times less expensive here in U.S.?

    GREG ARBURN: That– that’s– that’s a big deal.

    JOHN LARSOn [narration]: IT’S NOT A COINCIDENCE THAT MARATHON PETROLEUM IS HEADQUARTED ON FINDLAY’S MAIN STREET. IN THE LATE 1800’S THE COMPANY FORMED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RICH LOCAL OIL AND GAS FIELDS AND MANUFACTURING RUSHED TO FINDLAY, TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF CHEAP, EVEN FREE ENERGY.

    NOW, IT APPEARS IT MAY BE HAPPENING AGAIN. NEW TECHOLOGY OF HYDRAULIC FRACTURING AND SHALE OIL RECOVERY, WHILE ENVIRONMENTALLY CONTROVERSIAL, HAS TRIGGED UNPRECEDENTED OIL AND GAS DISCOVERIES, DROPPED THE PRICE OF ENERGY, AND LAUNCHED WHAT ARBURN AND OTHERS BELIEVE MAY BE A NEW ERA OF AMERICAN FACTORY JOBS.

    GREG ARBURN: In the case of Ohio– estimates are t– range wildly from 20,000 to 200,000 jobs in Ohio over the next three years — especially in the natural gas industry.

    JOHN LARSON: Even if you take the average of that, you’re talking about a hundred thousand jobs just in this state.

    GREG ARBURN: That’s a boom. That’s a lotta jobs. That’s a lot of people with more income –puts kids through school.

    JOHN LARSOn [narration]: a second reason for manufacturing growth is that American corporations are investing in technology helping American labor become even more efficient.

    GREG ARBURN: One of the things that’s happened, is interest rates have gone down and gone down and gone down. And so firms have found themselves in a situation where th– with a– with a very reasonable cost and capital, they can adapt new technologies, make capital investments, become even more productive.

    ILL THE MASSIVE PLANT IS SO EFFICIENT THERE ARE ONLY 90 EMPLOYEES ON THE FACTORY FLOOR.

    JOHN LARSON: My first reaction when I saw it was, “Wow.” And my second reaction was sorta, “Where is everybody?” You know, I expected to see 1,000 people running around these machines.

    GLENN JOST: The machines to a degree run by themselves. But they don’t run unless we have people capable of programming those machines, people capable of keeping them running mechanically. Electronically, yes. It looks like it runs by itself but it doesn’t.

    JOHN LARSOn [narration]: THESE HIGHLY SKILLED WORKERS OPERATE PROGRAMMABLE LOGIC CONTROLS – SOPHISTICATED COMPUTER SYSTEMS – THAT AUTOMATE THE PRODUCTION LINE, AND MAKE ADJUSTMENTS DOWN TO A MILLIONTH OF AN INCH.

    AND THEN THERE ARE WAGES. JOBS ARE RETURNING TO THE U.S. IN PART BECAUSE WAGES IN CHINA ARE RISING, WHILE NATIONALLY MANUFACTING WAGES HERE IN THE U.S. ARE FALLING. GOVERNMENT STATISTICS FOR THE FINDLAY AREA REFLECT THIS, SHOWING WAGES IN LOCAL MANUFACTURING ARE SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER THAN SERVICE INDUSTRY JOBS, FOR EXAMPLE – BUT NOT AS HIGH AS SOME MIGHT THINK, AND THE MANUFACTURING WAGES HERE ARE DROPPING.

    CHRIS RENN: Their benefits package in industry is still gonna be better than if they worked in the service industry. But the reality is, all of us are– are struggling with health care and the expense of health care and the benefits packages probably are not what they used to be– all across the board.

    JOHN LARSOn [narration]: FEW ARE MORE FOCUSED ON THE FUTURE OF INDUSTRY WAGES AND JOBS THAN CHRIS RENN, DIRECTOR OF FINDLAY’S MILLSTREAM CAREER CENTER.

    IN 2007 THE BLANCHARD RIVER JUMPED ITS BANKS AND FLOODED FINDLAY – ONE OF THE WORST FLOODS OF THE YEAR IN THE MIDWEST. AFTER THE FLOOD, HOWEVER, VOTERS APPROVED THIS NEW 19 MILLION HIGHSCHOOL FOCUSED ON TECHNICAL TRAINING – PREPARING STUDENTS FOR A FUTURE IN, AMONG OTHERS THINGS, MANUFACTURING.

  • Rick Evertsen

    John should have spent more time on the cycle created by union demands vs. company demands. Each side has a position that peaks and drops. 25 years ago (1988) at age 27 Jeff began work at Cooper Tire and soon made approx. $90K a year plus benefits. That’s a base in the area of $40 an hour + benefits. Now discuss the need for company survival in a world economy with open trade.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jimdavis11 Jim Davis

    $2.70/hr was considered tiny bucks in 1965. Go here to see what $2.70 is worth today! http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm