Too much is being made of the downsizing of large corporations. With the recent announcement by AT&T that it is laying off 40,000 workers, the general media is once again getting this country in a tizzy over unemployment. Television news-tabloid shows continue to massage the plight of the middle manager who, after being laid off from his corporate job, cannot find another after months or even years of searching. The media decries downsizing as evil and corporate heads as greedy, as they increase profit at the expense of loyal employees.
First, downsizing - or ``rightsizing'' as corporations prefer -is necessary if U.S. manufacturing companies expect to compete globally. For too long U.S. business schools have churned out middle managers whose jobs are to manage something. Manufac-turing today suffers from a glut of managers and a scarcity of skilled tradespeople. Secondly, it is the small, entrepreneurial businesses that provide the majority of new jobs in this country. That trend will continue as downsizing by large firms creates opportunities for OEM suppliers to expand.
That translates into more jobs in small and midsized businesses, but un-fortunately, not many management jobs. In the plastics in-dustry, even many management jobs require skills in mold making or plastics processing.
Many of those middle-management employees who got ``downsized'' out of a job lack a tangible skill or trade, and so they hunt for months for something to manage.
Third, in order for companies to thrive, wages must stay low in relation to corporate profits, economists say. The whole point of business is reaping profits that can be reinvested in the business so it can grow. Just because companies have a good year doesn't mean they need to give it all back to the employees in wages, salary raises and bonuses.
Corporate America is learning what many molders long have known: that running leaner and meaner translates into faster customer response and bigger margins while reducing costs to manufacture.
Sometimes that means shaving off layers of management.
My father always said that as long as one has a marketable skill or trade, one will always have a job. Looking at a world where there are too many managers and not enough mold makers, I believe he's right.
Goldsberry is a Plastics News correspondent based in Phoenix.