(July 19, 2003) — If you find yourself feeling blue about work that North American processors are losing to Asia, then take note of some recent headlines about major investment projects closer to home:
* Last week we reported on Delphi Connection Systems' $58 million injection molding plant in the heart of the Rust Belt — Vienna Township, Ohio, near Youngstown.
* This week we have news on Lacks Enterprises Inc. spending $54 million over the next five years on three new facilities, most near Grand Rapids, Mich.
* A few weeks ago came the news of Dorel Juvenile Group USA's $25 million investment to upgrade injection molding of child safety seats in Columbus, Ind.
* Before that was word from Blackhawk Automotive Plastics Inc. that it has spent $65 million in new equipment since 1999, including a new, 40-press plant in Mississauga, Ontario.
That's more than $200 million in new investment in manufacturing operations in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Ontario, and it's just part of the story of processing companies investing big bucks in North America.
What's going on here?
This looks like a case of the classic news story: “Man bites dog.” These headlines don't fit the stereotype of Rust Belt plants closing, moving work to the South, Mexico or Asia.
The real story is more complex, and more interesting, too. Not all North American manufacturers are for sale or on the verge of bankruptcy. Plenty have weathered the recent recession pretty well, and now they're modernizing — an essential step to avoid extinction — and preparing for better times.
Sure, there's risk involved. But managers and investors know you have to spend money to make money.
It also helps to get the whole picture.
A few of our staffers just returned from a trip to China, including a few days at the Chinaplas trade show in Shanghai. That's obviously an incredibly dynamic part of the world right now, with new construction seemingly everywhere. It's a real modern-day land of opportunity.
The standard of living is rising, and companies from around the world are building or expanding local plants. It's an exciting time, and our readers should stay tuned for more information on that booming market.
But the North American market has plenty of life — it's a market that's still much too large and prosperous to ignore.
So kudos to Delphi, Lacks, Dorel, Blackhawk and dozens of other companies that are investing today in North America. Their workers, suppliers and customers should salute them for having the courage to prepare for the future.