Thursday, December 16, 2010

From the Adirondacks to the Developing World

A disturbing article on today's website told of the decline of manufacturing in the United States and the resulting loss of blue-collar jobs. It quoted a man in the booming business of selling used industrial equipment. In 2003 for the benefit of potential customers he began a newsletter announcing plant closures. His reports have averaged 150 plant closings per month, or more than 10,000 to date. Most equipment ends up in developing countries. He ruefully told the reporter that everything in manufacturing plants is recyclable except the workers.
The article got me thinking about the Benson Mines plant. In Gem of the Adirondacks I concluded that its machinery had probably been cut up and sold for scrap. I should have known better. I had seen, scanned a copy of, and even cited information from a brochure put out by the company auctioning off the equipment. Rather than being destroyed, it was likely sent off to Peru or some other distant destination where it was put to use. Despite the immediate harm done to our local community by the closing, I am cheered a bit to realize that everything in the unhappy event was not wanton waste; some of the human capital invested might have been saved. The plant shut down for good in 1977 and 33 years is a long time, but just maybe a few often-repaired parts of the old plant are still serving people somewhere.

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