Goodbye to Fostoria, Ohio: A Small Town in the Middle of Everywhere | Harper's Magazine

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[Publisher's Note]

Goodbye to Fostoria, Ohio: A Small Town in the Middle of Everywhere


The jobs went south — to Mexicali, Mexico — after the NAFTA liberalizations of the 1990s. New owners have come and gone, the last U.S. employees are awaiting redundancy, and only a very few money men have profited, handsomely.

“When I went to Fostoria, in September 2009, long freight trains still rumbled through town regularly on the railroad lines that made the city, despite its modest size (population 13,441), such an attractive place to build a factory in the 19th and early 20th centuries. But the trains weren’t stopping to pick up much and the chamber of commerce was reduced to promoting its advantages for rail photography enthusiasts. No train buffs — or anyone else — were in evidence downtown, where Readmore’s Hallmark Books and Gifts was advertising a closing sale. Vast empty parking lots abutting shuttered factories and businesses — Fostoria Industries, a maker of specialty ovens; the Thyssenkrupp Atlas crankshaft plant; the GM dealership — testified to the declining fortunes of what Fostoria’s boosters had dubbed ‘A Small Town in the Middle of Everywhere!’

But while factory after factory had closed down, the Autolite plant seemed impregnable — not just because of Bossidy’s pledge in 1993 but also because the plant was churning out vast quantities of spark plugs with stunning efficiency — as many as 1.2m a day on 13 production lines operating over three shifts. It couldn’t last with so many plants heading to Mexico and, after passage by Congress of permanent normal trade relations with China in 2000, the even cheaper labour of China. In January 2007 Autolite announced plans to build the plant in Mexicali, and in August said it would begin to lay off 350 of the plant’s 650 workers.”

Read the rest of the piece at Le Monde diplomatique.

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