What happens to a community when a major manufacturer shuts its doors?
Though in recent Shift Changes posts we've highlighted companies that have shifted production back to the U.S, today we’ll be focusing on what transpires when a company shifts production out of a community:
When the Cooper Tire Plant closed in 2008, the citizens of Albany, GA knew that things would be different in their town. At its peak, the 2.2 million square-foot factory housed some 1,400 employees and supported, both directly and indirectly, a wide web of industry across Georgia’s Dougherty Country. According to an insightful article about the shuttered Cooper Tire Plant from the Albany Herald, the city has yet to recover from the devastating financial and psychological effects of the plant closure:
“[The plant closure lead to a] sudden and dramatic increase in the region’s unemployment rate. Economists said at the time multipliers that take into account losses of jobs outside of but directly tied to the plant would surpass 2,500, one of every 25 jobs in the metro area.
With the job losses came sharp declines in sales at local retail outlets, a sudden flood in the local housing market and what former Albany State University economics professor Abiodun Ojemakinde calls “the erosion of the local tax base.”
Author Carlton Fletcher says the negative effects of the plant closure are not limited to financial factors alone. As is the case with many former factory towns, the closure of Cooper Tires led to an overall decline in the quality of life and safety in the community—problems compounded by a lack of pride in the city on the part of its citizens:
“Certainly the loss of every job is a big deal to us and to the community,” Barbara Rivera Holmes, the director of marketing for the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission, said. “But coming so soon after the losses of the Bobs Candies and Merck plants, there was an emotional element to the Cooper closure. This further crippled the community’s self-esteem. And it’s very difficult to promote a place that doesn’t believe in itself.”
Despite the hardships the city of Albany has faced in the wake of the shuttering of the Cooper Tire Plant, community leaders remain optimistic about the future, and have developed new local incentive programs that they hope will attract other businesses to the region. Though the community may never experience the levels of prosperity it enjoyed during the days of the Cooper Tire plant, there’s certainly hope.
Sadly, the unfortunate account of Albany's decline in the wake of a major plant closure is not unique. Over the past few decades, thousands of factories have shut down in cities and towns across the country—and the ripple effect of these closures has had a devastating impact on our economy at the community, state, and national levels. In order to prevent future closures, and to improve the quality of life in areas that have suffered due to a decline in manufacturing, we must adopt a National Manufacturing Strategy that will improve our industrial base, create jobs, and kickstart our economy.
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