Just Above Sunset
July 10, 2005 - Oh, Canada!

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Note this item from July 1 –


Toyota confirmed Thursday it will build its seventh North American assembly plant in Ontario, but analysts don't expect it to be the automaker's last on this continent.

"I think they're already thinking about their eighth and ninth plants,'' said Kim Hill, assistant director of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Hill said there is already speculation Toyota, whose North American manufacturing operations are coordinated out of Erlanger, might eventually build assembly plants in Arkansas and even Michigan, home of Detroit's Big Three.


Dream on.  There's a problem here structurally as CBC reports.  American states offered twice the subsidies, and the Toyota folks decided, no, that didn't matter.



The factory will cost $800 million to build, with the federal and provincial governments kicking in $125 million of that to help cover research, training and infrastructure costs.

Several U.S. states were reportedly prepared to offer more than double that amount of subsidy.  But Fedchun said much of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project.

He said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce.  In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.

"The educational level and the skill level of the people down there is so much lower than it is in Ontario," Fedchun said.


Okay, okay, but what about northern states with, presumably, better educational systems?

Well, its seems that there is a second factor.


In addition to lower training costs, Canadian workers are also $4 to $5 cheaper to employ partly thanks to the taxpayer-funded health-care system in Canada, said federal Industry Minister David Emmerson.

"Most people don't think of our health-care system as being a competitive advantage," he said.

Tanguay said Toyota's decision on where to build its seventh North American plant was "not only about money."

"It's about being in the right place," he said, noting the company can rely on the expertise of experienced Cambridge workers to help get Woodstock up and running.


So when did the United States stop being the right place?

A long time ago. 

In the late nineties I spent two years in London, Ontario, managing the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive plant there.  When I arrived I faced the task of building a staff, from scratch, to manage the business and manufacturing systems there.  I recruited from the local auto plants.  There are a few.  Toyota already produces the Corolla and Matrix at the old Cambridge plant (they start preproduction of the Lexus RX330 SUV soon).  Chrysler was down the way in Windsor.  Every Ford Crown Victoria - the US police car - is produced down in Saint Thomas, just south of London.  Honda builds its cars in Alliston.  Oshawa?  That's GM building the Chevrolet Malibu, Buick Regal and Pontiac Grand Prix - and the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado pickups.  Ford builds most of its engines at its Essex engine plant in Windsor.

What is going on here?

We don't want a healthcare system like Canada's, or the one in France, or the one in the UK - or any of those in Europe, or the far east, or wherever.  Yes, discussed that has been discussed in these pages before, as it comes down to our holding true to the idea that that would be "socialized medicine" (oh no!) and the government should stay out of the whole thing.  The marketplace will take care of it all - the invisible hand of competition lowering costs and assuring everyone gets what they need.  That, and pigs will fly.  The price for our steadfast purity in these matters of unregulated capitalism?  That's pretty obvious.  Forty-four million uninsured, hoping they don't get sick.  And the Republican mantra of "keep government out of it" will keep us happy as the jobs go north, or south.  Better purity than jobs.

And I left teaching for many reasons, but one of them was it paid crap.  My first industry job, at entry level, paid more than twice what I earned after a decade of teaching.  And I recall being a guest lecturer at the UCLA Extension seminars on "Alternative Careers for Teachers" back then, looking out at the sea of faces, thinking that the best want out and to have a relatively prosperous life, while those who can't get out - who don't have the skills or ambition - are the ones left to teach the kids.  The losers have to stay.  They wanted to know how I made the transition.  I felt as if I was then contributing, in my own small way, to the disintegration of the educational system. But then again, I was not part of the crowd railing against higher taxes for schools, or ranting that the teachers unions where a bunch of whining crybabies being greedy.  And I'm still not part of the crowd who want to make science classes more Christian and true to the Bible, and who want this book or that banned because it makes kids learn what could make some parents uncomfortable and open some kid's eyes.  I only did a little harm.  The no-tax-increases and keep-our-children-pure party has done far more harm than I, in my small way, ever did.

This is what you get.  But it's only one new auto assembly plant we've lost.  We lost the main battle long ago.


Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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