Despite all the retail talk, manufacturing remains our backbone
June 1, 2007
I recently heard (from people who should know) that some manufacturers do not want other manufacturers to locate in our area. Because of competition? Nope! Because they don’t want other manufacturers to further fragment the area’s work force. Hey, now that’s about as smart as a dead fox. I am also told that some of those same manufacturers will not support organizations charged with the objective to lure manufacturers to the area.
Not to be picky, but I was surprised to hear there is no immediate replacement for the departure of Mr. Gasket. There doesn’t seem to be any urgency in creating and fulfilling a succession plan. I could have sworn that even employees of Mr. Gasket said they knew the end was near about a year ago. As fast as word travels in our little city, you would think one year would be enough for us to proactively seek to fill the void. Word travels so fast that I’m sure there are times when God Himself says, “Really? When did that happen?!” Again, it may sound like I’m being picky, but we are only as good as the least of what we accept, and accepting the departure of one manufacturer just means that we are OK if another leaves, and yet another, then one more, then …
Building a city to last is not unlike the most basic principals of construction. The strongest highways, bridges and architecture rely on the durability of their foundations. The surface and facades of those roads and structures will, in time, require reinforcements, but the foundations upon which they rest their colossal weight should stand the test of time long after environmental impairments have taken hold.
To some, building a city is measured primarily by local commerce. But that’s not true. In anatomical terms, commerce is only one layer of skin that is applied to a mass of musculature and bone that gives a city progressive movement.
The skeletal structure on which any city is built is industry. Period. It can also be argued that it is the heart of a city – a vital organ. Even in our earliest days of civilization, the most simplistic forms of industry mapped the direction of a city’s progress.
When it comes to manufacturing, Carson City seems to be standing like a West Pointer – straight up and sturdy. So does Northern Nevada, or Greater Reno-Tahoe, or whatever we decide to name the area.
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This is how seriously we should consider the loss of any one manufacturer in this area: We should think of each manufacturer as one vertebra that supports the full body of our city. As one is removed, and is not readily replaced, we lose serious support. When enough vertebrae are allowed to detach, we can no longer stand. Retention of industry becomes just as important, if not more important, than solicitation of the new.
Believe me, allowing bacterial air to settle in to the infection of vacant industry is an invitation to industrial demise over the course of time. And it doesn’t take long. I’ll probably be dead, which means many people who can make a difference in this city will be playing poker with St. Peter long before I cut the cards. But I like to think about a nice place to live for my daughter, and her kids if she decides to raise a family someday.
According to demographicsnow.com, the current number of manufacturers in Carson City is 175, which is 7 percent of the state’s total manufacturing establishments. In state-wide measurement, those stats hold up very well. Even the percentage of people employed by Carson City manufacturers scores quite well at 7 percent of the state total.
But why stop there? Ideally, we should think in terms of five manufacturers to one retailer (I can see many facial distortions already at the mention of that statement). Mark my words, you can build all the Wal-Marts and Home Depots you want, but as the months and years from our city’s mortality calendar get torn off, those stores will mean nothing if our industrial base wavers and caves. Without enough industry, the population of higher-paying jobs sizzles and evaporates like a culinary reduction. When that happens, the value of real estate goes down since no one can afford even the homes we now consider middle of the road; then people begin to leave; and low-income people begin to dominate the area, pushing the middle-class out. Then retail suffers. And then …
I’m not going to be a phony and say our city – make that any city – can survive with only lower income residents. No way. Hell, the same can be said if our ship was capsized by too many higher-class residents. Every city needs a balance of the three lifestyle classes. All I’m saying is there is no such thing as recruiting too many manufacturers. Without a consistent population of industries, we may as well push hard on the TNT detonator – and watch the splinters pierce the heart of our city.
• John DiMambro is publisher of the Nevada Appeal. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.