Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good story of the week:
This week’s feature is unique in our nearly year-long series. Erie is used to being the hunted, but rarely the hunter. We’ve seen manufacturing jobs leave, population stagnate, and properties blight slowly over the past 50 years.
Opportunity just hadn’t been expanding here like it has from other places, as our manufacturing core has lost once reliable places to spend a career like Hammermill, and GE kept cutting amid rumors it would close its Erie production entirely and move it to Fort Worth, TX, instead.
Not anymore. After the labor strike that left so many jobs hanging in the balance as GE weighed its options, its final decision was a sort of punt: it sold the facility to Wabtec. No one knew what that would mean, at least not initially.
When the UE Local 506 went on strike against the new ownership, too, things looked bleak. Then, the breakthrough came: a four year contract that would not only keep production right here, but promised to add 100 full-time equivalent jobs by the end of that deal. With this week’s good news, Wabtec is already making good on that promise.
Wabtec announced on Thursday Sept. 19, that it will be closing its Boise, ID, production facility and moving much of that work to Erie. While that’s great for us, I’m having trouble thinking of this as complete victory. Boise will be just fine, sure (“more potatoes for the rest of us!”), but Erie as the beneficiary of someone else’s loss? I’ll need to get used to that.
There are families waking up in Boise today wondering how they’ll pay their bills, and though Boise is a pretty vibrant place with other opportunities, that’s a sting I wish no family would have to feel. I’d feel so much better if Wabtec were expanding their operations instead.
You know what, though? Most of my wishes aren’t granted. I’m still awaiting world peace, the elimination of hunger, winning the lottery despite never playing the lottery, and – just once – for craft beer to rain down from the clouds. My wish for every available worker to have a quality job isn’t any more realistic than the others.
So, I’m going to recognize that in the real world sometimes there are winners and losers, and I’m going to be happy that today Erie is a winner. I’m especially glad that our labor union didn’t roll over and accept work at a fraction of former wages in order to make this a reality. That’s usually the driver behind lateral moves like this one.
Finally, this is also a continuation of our city’s year of development and expansion – in healthcare, tech startups, and manufacturing – which has been something to behold. When was the last time our city has seen so much success?