For some time now, we at ASSEMBLY magazine have made a habit of doing a daily survey of online news stories with an eye toward picking three or four for inclusion in our web site’s “Industry Headlines” section. We don’t rely on newsfeeds. We do it “manually,” so to speak, typing in various search terms, such as “assembly plants,” and seeing what we come up with. It can be a real pain, especially when we’re on deadline. But it has its benefits in that it provides an invaluable glimpse of what’s happening beneath the radar of the “popular” business press with its overwhelming focus on the travails of behemoths such as General Motors and the financial sector.
Last week, for example, a company called Heatcraft Refrigeration opened a new plant in Tifton, GA. The week before that, electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors announced it planned to build a new powertrain plant outside San Francisco to support production of its new all-electric Model-S sedan. Along these same lines, no less than four companies are reportedly planning to invest a combined $1.7 billion in Michigan to build lithium-ion cells for automotive applications.
Projects like these represent just the tip of the iceberg.
Even the clouds hanging over the Big Three have a distinctly silver lining. In spite of its troubles, General Motors is still considering building a new plant in China, so it can sell more cars to the Chinese. Similarly, Ford has begun quietly calling back workers, including 1,400 workers who were furloughed a few weeks ago at its Torrence Avenue plant here in Chicago. Speaking of Ford, when will the talking heads over at CNBC truly appreciate how extraordinary it is that the company is continuing to forge ahead without the need for government handouts?
Bottom line: Beneath the surface, there’s a tremendous amount of activity going on out there.
In the not too distant future, the banking industry will get its act together and begin lending money again the way it’s supposed to. It’s inevitable. In contrast to Japan in the 1990s, the U.S. economy is just too big for the banking industry to ignore. When that happens, a lot of smart people in the manufacturing sector stand ready to put that money to good use.
I am reminded of the 1988 “Year of Fire” at Yellowstone National Park. At the time, many in the media, having only a limited understanding of how natural systems work, proclaimed that the park was dead. They questioned whether its natural beauty would ever return. In fact, even as much of the park continued to smolder, Mother Nature was already hard at work rebuilding. The park has long since been reborn, better than ever.
Mark my words: It’s going to be the same thing with the U.S. economy. The seeds of future growth are already germinating. The fundamentals are already in place. The only remaining question is who will come out on top after the smoke clears.