Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Smith Corona Migration Continues Harmful Trend

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Smith Corona Migration Continues Harmful Trend

Article excerpt

By Bob Deans

Cox News Service

WASHINGTON _ For well over a century, Americans of all ages have sat down to their desks, counter tops and kitchen tables to hammer out letters, term papers, manuscripts and assorted missives and ruminations on Smith Corona typewriters built in tiny Cortland, N.Y.

Today, despite a bitter price war waged by Japanese competitors, the company still claims to sell half of the portable typewriters sold in this country.

In the end, however, neither its rich history, its fighting spirit nor its continuing success in the marketplace seem able to save the Cortland plant. Sometime next spring it will close, as Smith Corona moves what's left of its domestic production to Mexico.

In announcing the move last week, Smith Corona Corp. Chairman G. Lee Thompson called it "an American tragedy." No doubt it is for the nearly 900 wellid workers who will lose their jobs in Cortland.

South of the border, however, where the company is still seeking a site for its new plant, the prospect of new manufacturing jobs can only be hailed as an unmitigated success, the very sort Mexico needs more of to move its deeply impoverished people forward.

The move may also be precisely the medicine Smith Corona needs to ensure its competitiveness into the next century.

Mexicans, the company figures, will work for onefth the $20 per hour wage and benefits package Smith Corona pays its Cortland employees. In one year alone, Thompson asserted, those savings will offset the $15 million cost of moving production south.

Put another way, cheap Mexican labor presented Smith Corona with an opportunity to earn a 100 percent return on a $15 million investment. Few managers who wish to keep their own jobs can afford to say no to that kind of opportunity.

The hollowing out of the proud Smith Corona Corp. _ which will continue to employ about 450 Americans to design and market typewriters built in the company's plants in Mexico, Singapore and Indonesia _ is only the latest example of a larger trend in American industry.

U.S. companies that make automobiles, steel, glass, aircraft, machine tools and other products have shed 2.4 million manufacturing jobs over the past 13 years. Most of those jobs have gone, one way or another, to factories abroad.

The trend shows no sign of abating; if anything, it seems more likely to accelerate in the headlong rush toward a global economy where the dimensions of empire and conquest are defined as much by multinational corporations as by governments and armies.

There's been no greater proponent of this shift than President Bush, who has twinned free markets with global democratization as the central pillars of his new world order.

To wit: the president's trade negotiators are at the moment working overtime to cement the North American Free Trade Agreement, a deal the president contends would open up billions of dollars in trade possibilities to American companies able to do business with Mexico. …

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