A Company Town Holds On For Life

Just a month ago, a 5-million square-foot GM plant was the heartbeat of Lordstown, Ohio, producing 1,500 cars a day and employing more than 4,000 people, CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports.

"It's a real odd feeling, because it's dark and everything and it kind of reminds you that, hey, this thing could close, and this is what it would look like," said John Tarchick, a 31-year veteran of GM.

Tarchick was one of the 2,800 employees asked to temporarily stay home for the month of January.

While they all hoped to return, today 800 of those would not.

On average, 30 percent of General Motors plants across North America will be temporarily closed in the first quarter of 2009. It's GM's attempt to align production at facilities like the one in Lordstown, Ohio, with demand in the marketplace.

But "aligning production" means upending lives. Bobbi March already lost her GM job in December.

"Here I am: a college graduate, you know, I want to be able to provide on my own," March said. "Very tough."

It was tough enough to ask her parents for money, but now she needs government assistance, too, for food stamps.

In Ohio, 227,000 people filed new claims for unemployment benefits in 2008 - that's up 35 percent. Now the state needs federal help to meet the rising demand.

And Lordstown, population 3,600, is holding on for dear life. Seventy-five percent of the town's tax base comes from the GM plant, according to Mayor Michael Chafee.

"We're a one-horse town in that regard," Chafee said.

He estimates that for every job lost at the plant, at least two others are needed to replace it due to the difference in pay.

"It's not like I have a folder on my desk that says 'in case of 4,000 layoffs, open the folder' and see what comes next," he said.

Today John Tarchick learned he missed the layoffs by three people in his department.

"I guess it doesn't take a crystal ball to see that when the economy is going slow and they're not selling cars, that you can't keep producing if you're not selling them," Tarchick said.

That's a business calculation much easier to compute than to cope with.
  • Seth Doane

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