One step forward, one back for manufacturing

October 22, 2007
News late last week that a manufacturing plant in Wabash employing 800 will close before December continues the good news-bad news Indiana is experiencing with the industry.

For every expansion announcement, there seems to be another about a contraction or outright closing.

On Friday, GDX Automotive, an auto parts supplier headquartered in Farmington Hills, Mich., said its Wabash plant would close as part of the company's sale to MAPS Holdings Inc. of Madison Heights, Mich., another Detroit suburb.

GDX is owned by New York-based Cerberus Capital Management LLP, which acquired a controlling interest in Chrysler Group in May. The Wabash plant makes weather strips and other sealant products.

Indiana manufacturing employment is trickling away even as the state lands some high-profile plants. The Honda of Indiana Manufacturing plant under construction in Greensburg will employ 2,000 production workers. Toyota Boshoku Corp. last week announced that it would create 200-plus jobs at Princeton to supply Toyota's nearby assembly plant.

Between 1990, when Hoosier manufacturing employment peaked at 672,000, and late 2003, headcount fell 15 percent, as technological advances and outsourcing drove restructurings. In the past few years, the state largely has held its own, while sustaining smaller ongoing losses. It closed September with 557,600 manufacturing workers.

Remaining manufacturing workers are making more money while working about the same number of hours a week, 42. Whereas the workers pulled in an average of about $750 a week in 2004, they now draw nearly $800 a week, according to Ball State University.

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