Friday, August 20, 2004
Idled plant's tear-down digs up emotions in town once tethered to Harvester
Not just the town's emotions. This was one of the plants I set up an outplacement center for in 1983, a job that has haunted me for 20 years:
Farm implement making in Canton goes back to 1842, when Canton inventor William Parlin manufactured the first steel plow. International Harvester took over in 1919, providing more than 2,000 jobs for the community of 15,000 until the company abandoned it amid mounting debt in 1983.I think I mentioned this before, and I thought I'd written up something more complete, but I guess not. It wasn't a time in my life that was particularly fun. I was naive and young and had no idea what I was doing. This was the early days of the computer revolution, remember. You wouldn't believe the giant hunks of metal I was hauling around and trying to train people on. Looking back, I realize it was done all wrong and probably gave a lot of people false hopes that if they just had a neatly typed resume and their skills were put in a database, the jobs would come.
Any hope that those factory jobs would be replaced vanished in 1997, when an arson fire burned for a week and left the plant in ruin. Tearing down the charred remains has been slowed by environmental regulations and expenses that have already topped $6 million.
The jobs didn't come. They never did, and they never will again to most of these towns. I'll never forget rolling into Canton, setting up at the motel, going to the bar for a glass of something and have everyone at the end of the room whispering about me, sitting there like a fool in my city business suit.
Read this article. It could have been written about a lot of places. For me, it's like reading about ghosts. I helped close plants for Harvester in Indianapolis, Des Moines, San Diego, and elsewhere. I wish I could have done more for the people back then, but for me the greed years were just beginning.
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