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Bankruptcy Signals the Need for Change.
by Michelle Krueger
November 2, 2005

The recent bankruptcy of the auto supplier Delphi Corporation was disheartening, demoralizing, and even horrifying. But it's not surprising. The automobile industry in Michigan has long had its share of troubles, and this is only the latest.

I have recently read countless articles blaming every group and person possible for this sorry occurrence: the UAW, higher-ups in the General Motors Corporation, Governor Granholm, and even President Bush. Human nature is the only reason I can think of that would cause people to spend all of their time trying to figure out what went wrong instead of finding a solution. And if we don't take action to fix the problem soon, we will be in a worse economic situation than what already exists.

Everybody knows what put our state on the map in the first place. The automobile industry has served this state and community well. Ever since the time of Henry Ford, the country and even the entire world knew that we were leaders in the automotive business. And in more recent memory, back when I was growing up in my middle class neighborhood, all of my friends' parents worked for GM or Ford. I remember tiptoeing around houses where a father worked third shift and slept in his unnaturally darkened room, aided by the black curtains to keep the sunlight away. I remember that everybody drove the same kinds of cars and proudly displayed the new ones they had bought with their employee discount. I remember my childhood as being truly filled with, "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet."

Then, the lay-offs happened. During the 1980s, I said many tearful goodbyes to friends and relatives who sought their fortunes in other industries, and unfortunately, that often meant relocating to a distant state. We didn't have any other industry for people without college degrees to earn middle-class wages. Houses went up for sale and newspaper headlines screamed of new sets of lay-offs and strikes. Everybody looked for work and they all looked worried.

I feel that history is repeating itself and the situation is only going to grow worse. This state can no longer afford to sustain itself on one big industry alone. Yes, automobiles made this the great place it is today. But with outsourcing, foreign competition, and rising gas prices, it is imperative that we look to different sources of business.

We need to admit that while our unemployment rate has not significantly increased in the last few months, it is still above the national average and that is not acceptable. While we bemoan layoffs and bankruptcies, the rest of the country is enjoying relative prosperity. Why have other communities and states prospered where we have failed to?

Instead of searching elsewhere for gold-paved streets, it is time to welcome new industry to our state and town. Everybody has been too dependent on one trade for too long and it is to our own peril. Yes, I believe that our domestic automakers will rise again and be better than ever. But in the meantime would it hurt to open our arms and embrace the businesses that have made the rest of the country grow?

There would be so many benefits in accepting new industry in the area. In order for a community to be successful and grow, there must be new people that move into that area. Unfortunately, Bay County's population has been decreasing in the recent years, especially in regards to the younger people who make up a huge percent of the workforce. New industry means attracting younger professionals to live and work in this community.

I do not want to see Bay County nor the rest of the state jeopardize its future by clinging to the past. This Delphi debacle only solidifies the need for change. I doubt that the federal government will assist us in any way, so it's up to us to our local governments to step in to try to attract new companies. Other states and communities have been doing it for years with much success. And we all know that Michigan and Bay County are up to the task.

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