Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Retrofitting Factories, Retraining Workers - Why Not? Saves the Economy and Many Other Things!

The Toyota Motor Company has decided to close its New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) Factory in Fremont, California, next year in March. This will put 4700 workers at the NUMMI plant on the streets without a job and the ripples from this will also zap 1000+ other companies that supply parts for the facility.

California officials had offered all sorts of financial incentives for the plant to remain open, but Toyota determined that it must close.

So now, we'll have a huge (5 million sq ft/300 acres) facility laying idle and we'll also have another devastating hit on the already trashed economy of the state. Because not only do all those 4700 workers spend their money here in local businesses (hair dressers/barber shops, movies, car dealerships, gas stations, clothing stores, restaurants, hardware stores, petshops, veterinarians, medical doctors, grocery stores, and so on), but they also pay taxes. If not making money, these folks don't spend it. Likewise, these cuts in spending after the folks get laid off will result in all the businesses they used to patronize also cutting back... and the ripple continues through to rip another hole in the economy.

Ya want numbers? The East Bay Economic Alliance said that the factory has a direct annual payroll of about $512 million. With an additional indirect payroll of $904 million. Estimates are that up to 50,000 jobs will be clobbered by this closing.

Okay. Toyota and GM don't want the place.

Great. While the iron is hot, let's have a new paradigm jump in here.


The Ford Motor Co. built the 160-acre, $50 million-dollar assembly plant that employed 4,000 in 1955 in Milpitas. The factory closed in 1983 after producing 4.7 million vehicles. But then, in 1994 it was "rehabilitated" and opened as a thriving mall--"The Great Mall"--a huge mall with clothing outlets, restaurants, Light-Rail Station Access, easily accessed from freeways (I-680/I-880) and city streets. These stores and other businesses in the mall provide the City of Milpitas with a tax base and the citizens of Milpitas and the surrounding areas with a convenient shopping area (remember, it's accessible by energy conserving Valley Transit Authority buses and Light Rail!).

But maybe we don't want another huge mall on the I-880 corridor. How about we keep the primary purpose of the facility intact. But why not retool the manufacturing equipment to help Tesla Motors produce their electric car? The NUMMI facility is already geared up to provide chassis, drive-train components, metal-bending/molding, and painting.

If cars and trucks are not that "interesting" or viable as options, the facility can also be adjusted to mass-produce on a huge-scale SOLAR PANELS, SOLAR EQUIPMENT, and so on. It's very close to companies in Silicon Valley who have the expertise in photovoltaics, silicon-chip manufacturing, alternate energy, and so on. So, why not get a consortium of investors and alternate energy moguls to buy into this thing? Perhaps even keeping all the workers there and letting them become co-owners? They can be retrained to use their equipment in a new way. They'd probably prefer that to going on unemployment or scrambling for new jobs elsewhere.

I'm just throwing this idea out there... it seems a shame that this huge facility with such manufacturing potential will be thrown into the trash heap.

Let's get more things pushing on this alternate use for the NUMMI plant!