Manufacturing losses weigh heavily on Ohio

One study, by Martin Baily, chairman of the Clinton administration's Council of Economic Advisers, and Harvard University's Robert Lawrence concluded that trade causes no more than 3% of all mass layoffs.

More important in the loss of manufacturing jobs, they say, is that computerized tooling has made factories far more efficient. In 1995, for example, it took 2.4 man-hours of work to produce 1 ton of steel at Cleveland's main steel plant, then owned by LTV. This year, the current owner, India's Mittal Steel, estimates it will produce a ton of steel using precisely half as much labor.

Trade policy critics, such as Robert Scott of the Economic Policy Institute, insist that NAFTA and expanded trade with low-wage countries such as China are to blame for more than half the manufacturing jobs lost since 2000. Demand for foreign-made goods is crowding out sales of products made in the USA. "The NAFTA model is broken," he says.

In Niles, Amweld's road to closure included frequent changes of managers, especially after a private equity firm called Patriarch Partners took control in 2004. The company had outsize ambitions befitting the age of globalization, saying it aimed to become "the Pepsi-Cola of steel doors," the workers say.

When a competitor began importing doors from China, Amweld distributed promotional material that read: "Proudly American … Amweld … An American Manufacturer" against an American flag backdrop.

Barbara Paynter, a company spokeswoman, said Amweld executives were not available to comment.

In October, Amweld announced it was closing its Ohio facilities in Niles and Garrettsville. The company said it had been unable to extend existing factory leases and blamed rising costs for energy, health care and workers' compensation for the elimination of jobs paying an average of $18 per hour. "We want you to know that this was a very difficult decision, and we understand this is going to be very difficult for you and your families," said the company's statement.

Mark Plant, 56, Craig's father and a 38-year Amweld veteran, says the company then brought in Mexican laborers to crate up the factory tooling. "They told us what they'd make down there, something like $50 a week. How are you going to compete with that?" he says.

After the 2001 recession, Ohio continued to hemorrhage jobs longer than the rest of the country. For a century, the Buckeye State has been synonymous with large corporations, from John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil at the dawn of the 20th century to Goodyear gt or Procter & Gamble pg today. What once had been its industrial pride was now dead weight. The state's non-farm employment didn't bottom out until November 2003.

Since then, job creation has been puny, less than 1%. If the state had produced new jobs at the same rate as the nation as a whole, more than 288,000 unemployed Ohioans would be working today. But in an age in which Silicon Valley's nimble garage-based entrepreneurs are the embodiment of job growth, Ohio has lagged on new business ventures. Six out of every seven jobs in Ohio are outside the factory gates, and it is in the non-manufacturing sector that the state has failed to develop new jobs.

"We haven't created the service economy jobs at the rate the rest of the economy has," says economist Timothy Dunne of the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank.

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