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Lessons come to light as GE ends operations in the Valley



Published: Wed, February 5, 2014 @ 12:00 a.m.

The last vestige of General Elec- tric’s once strong and shining imprint on the Mahoning Valley vanished last month with the closing of the company’s landmark lamp plant in Warren. The closing brings understandable pain and heartache to many of its displaced workers, ends a vibrant chapter in the rich industrial heritage of the Valley and offers some hard lessons for industry and workers alike on the importance of adjusting to a new era of manufacturing in the United States.

The plant on North Park Avenue in Warren — once the home of a sprawling Packard Electric division of General Motors — closed last month after the nearly 200 workers there voted last year to reject a concessionary contract proposal that would have lowered wages but kept the plant operating. The proposal would have maintained jobs by moving all but one line of the plant’s production of outdated incandescent light bulbs and by installing several lines of energy efficient-halogen bulbs. Though the margin of rejection was razor-thin — less than 10 votes — the outcome illustrated that actions do have consequences. Despite efforts to keep the plant open, workers failed to change GE’s mind.

The closing reinforced the fact that as times change, so, too, must industry. Old ways of production and product lines that no longer serve the public good must give way. In many cases, higher wages that threaten a corporation’s viability also must be adjusted. That is a fact of life that thousands of lower-wage newer employees at the General Motors Lordstown plant and other Valley industries have come to accept as a given. Clinging to old ways of making things, after all, played a large role in the catastrophic demise of the Mahoning Valley’s once colossal steel industry.

IMPACT OF CLOSING

Even though the demise of General Electric manufacturing that once employed about 4,000 people in plants scattered across the Valley pales in comparison to the loss of tens of thousands of steel jobs here in the 1970s and 1980s, the end of a century of GE production in the Valley will have similar detrimental ripple effects — loss of tax revenue for Warren’s strained city coffers, added industrial blight to the city’s landscape and financial and psychological strains on the displaced workers, particularly those who supported the concessions and now lack viable immediate alternatives.

Toward minimizing the hit, Warren leaders should double-up on efforts to assist the unemployed and rev up economic development and business attraction to the city. They should work directly with GE toward finding a suitable tenant willing to invest in renovations of the aging structure. To the Valley’s credit, numerous avenues of assistance also are available through the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, the Warren Redevelopment and Planning Corp., business incubators in Warren and Youngstown and statewide economic development programs. If such efforts fail, the aging structure should be razed to lessen blight and threats to public health.

Fortunately for Warren officials, the economic climate throughout the Valley is slowly warming. Witness the growth of the oil and natural-gas drilling industry, high-tech businesses and the state-of-the-art America Makes, a national research and development center for additive manufacturing and 3-D printing. With such a strong foundation now laid in the Mahoning Valley, we’re confident the jobs lost at GE can be resurrected many times over by progressive companies and talented workers with their mindset and production philosophies firmly planted in the 21st century.


Comments

1birdseed(66 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

yeah, you all keep voting for the labor-loving democrats and the U.S. will soon be a banana republic.

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2Photoman(1019 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

While the economic climate of he valley may be slowly warming, it is highly unlikely that GE workers will fill any of the jobs offered in the oil and gas industries.

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3lajoci(379 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

In March 2011, The New York Times reported that, despite earning $14.2 billion in worldwide profits, including more than $5 billion from U.S. operations, General Electric did not owe taxes in 2010.

General Electric had a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. This same article also pointed out that GE has reduced its American workforce by one fifth since 2002.

In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized General Electric for spending $84.35 million on lobbying and not paying any taxes during 2008–2010, instead getting $4.7 billion in tax rebates, despite making a profit of $10.4 billion, laying off 4,168 workers since 2008, and increasing executive pay by 27% to $75.9 million in 2010 for the top 5 executives.

No taxes, and yet GE ranks as the 21st largest Fed contractor, with Fed contracts of $3.14 BILLION in 2010.

Incidentally, GE is world-class polluter, dumping, for example, 1.3 MILLION pounds of PCB'S into the Hudson between 1947 and 1977. GE continues to happily rake in billions in profits while not bothering to incur the expense of cleaning up the messed it made generating those profits. They left that for the rest of us to deal with.

Thus, the capitalist motto: privatize profits and assets; socialize liabilities.

There are, as yet, no figures available measuring the extent to which GE used the Warren area as a garbage can.

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4republicanRick(1254 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

General Electric is a company without a soul.

Look at all their abandoned plants littering the landscape around our valley. The plant on Market St has been empty for 30 years. They make Billions but do not have the decency to clean up after themselves after they leave the area.

Capitalism is the best for prosperity for a nation. But that doesn't mean a company should just suck profits with no regard for its workers or the communities they live in.

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5dontbeafool(1102 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

You're an idiot Eivo. Who wants to close tax loopholes for the wealthiest? It sure isn't Republicans. They fight it tooth and nail.

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6dontbeafool(1102 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

and all Republicans want to do is help out their wealthiest of weathy buddies who are in their back pockets. The rich get richer, and screw the poor. It is okay that I pay 10-20k in taxes a year, but large corporations don't pay a dime? Sounds fair. I would rather have my taxes spent on the poor, than on subsidies to your republican loved big oil companies who are making record profits as they raise the prices at the pumps. But you only watch the Fox entertainment news channel, so that is why you didn't know of 1 Republican who was in favor of corporate welfare. Glad you were proven wrong on that one. And only a nitwit would not know that Obama couldn't run again for a third term you moron.

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7dontbeafool(1102 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

typical Repub eivo. I notice you didn't touch on any of the corporate welfare comments. You don't care about corporate subsidies to companies who don't need it, give direct payments to farmers who don't farm, etc.... You say it would be dumb to hand out money, but maybe I see it as being generous to someone less fortunate. You probably spit on the homeless as you walk by them and call them freeloaders because they don't pay rent for their cardboard house. You could be the poster boy for the Repubs. Everyone for themselves, and I don't care about you unless you are wealthy.

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8dontbeafool(1102 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

You don't know ANY wealthy people? Okay... And how about the working poor? You don't seem to have anything for them either. Maybe it is just mankind you have a problem with. You aren't happy with yourself, so you hate everyone else.

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9jojuggie(1490 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt, is the head of Obama's JOBS COUNCIL.
Three cheers for obama.

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10evio(43 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Opps, My Bad

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11lajoci(379 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

So GE gets to use use use the infrastructure that the rest of us pay for, make billions in profits (some of which are profits on Federal contracts that the rest of us pay for through our own taxes), and basically take take take from everyone else, and never pull it's own weight?

How is that any different from the mythical welfare cheats the Repubs are always whining about?

Answer: it's not any different.

Instead of the mythical welfare queen driving her Cadillac to the welfare office to pick up her welfare check, we have a real life private sector corporation making billions and billions in profits, some of which comes from Federal Government contracts that WE PAY FOR, and these free-loaders pay no taxes on those earnings!

We're worried about a few poor people getting their miniscule assistance, their food stamps and rent subsidies, when all the while corporate America is ripping off the USA hand over fist!

We have Corporate Welfare Queens driving over to their tax attorneys' office in limousines to pick up their Federal tax breaks and subsidies to the tune of $BILLIONS$!

Of course, there will never be a report of that on FAUX NOISE!

If FAUX was worth a crap, they'd make some NOISE about that!

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12dontbeafool(1102 comments)posted 10 months, 3 weeks ago

@lajoci, because when rich white businessmen does it, it is acceptable. They are just increasing their profits. You are just jealous, class envy (sarcasm)! When the dirt poor gets some crumbs for food, the right act like their house was broken into and the money was taken directly out of their pants pockets. I don't understand it, never will. Look at all of the pork barrel spending in the latest farm bill! Preach about responsible spending, but legislation with rediculous wasteful side projects gets passed. It's okay, because the money goes to their voting districts! This happens on both sides of the isle, it is just more hypocritical of the right because they are always the ones complaining about spending!

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