Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Well, Now I have Something to Think About Today

GM is going to permanently close the Janesville plant. Inevitably someone is going to want to place blame. Might as well be me. I'm just as good at it as any of the "experts". Who's to blame in the issue of he closing of the Janesville plant is easy to decide--there is so much blame to go around.

First, GM get a load because those guys have all of the foresight of a golden marmot. Tell me that they didn't have a forecast for declining SUV sales and I'll agree. Also, the GM corporate structure is heavily tilted towards inertia. Even if someone at the very top clearly predicted declining revenues from SUV sales, there was no way that they were able to make the change in time. Toyota, Honda, Subaru, all of the Japanese car makers are able to change on a dime it seems. They are better structured to adapt to changing markets.

Second, state and local government has repeatedly urged investment by GM into an antique facility instead of leading Janesville towards diversifying into other industries.. It's like everyone keeps stuffing food into an aging grandpa and then wondering why he is getting fat and his health is declining. I'm sure that Thompson and Doyle and the Janesville government leadership tried to diversify. But they seem to want to always be attached to building cars and trucks. True, that is what is (was) there right now. But how they could have avoid ed the lesson of Gary, Indiana and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is beyond me. Janesville, it seems, hitched its wagon to a star--and it fell.

I won't blame the workers at the Janesville plant. They did everything that they could. In this case, the corporate structure failed them and the corporate structure needs to pay a price for that failure. They need to give the Janesville workers a send-off worthy of the efforts that they put into producing cars and trucks for 97 years.

Janesville is now going to drift into that land where old factories are turned into shopping malls, boutique restaurants, and trendy hotels, all in a vain attempt to capture the lost glory. Sorry, I don't buy it. First off, every city that has a huge old abandoned factory does that. They are a dime a dozen. What Janesville needs to do is bulldoze the shame and start over with a clean slate. The factory was built in 1911. Let it finally die. Janesville needs to find something cutting edge, offer stupendous incentives to locate here and grow with it. Don't go looking for the assembly lines of the past. Now Janesville has a terrific chance to start something small and watch it grow, instead of vainly trying to keep a falling star in the sky.

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