Throwing good money after good.

The State of Ohio offered GM $56 million dollars to keep Moraine General Assembly (the truck plant) open. Luckily, even as stupid as the GM leadership is, they turned the State down. 2,400 GM workers and thousands of others who support the plant will lose their jobs. Yes, it sucks.

But, why invest in yesterday?

$56 million could open up a plant building scooters in the USA- two wheels and a small motor of gas sipping, OPEC flipping off, commuting fun. That’s right- scooters. If just 10% of the population of the US traded in their SUV’s for scooters for the ride to and from work- just a few days a week, we’d be able to turn off the spigot of oil dependence. Higher MPG fleet standards for cars won’t do it. Scooters will. They’ll also take up less parking spaces, do less damage to roads and bridges, and at least the people on scooters won’t be driving and texting (hopefully).

And since the plant is so big, and scooters aren’t that hard to make- the rest of it can start making light rail train cars which could also help in the fight against our dependence on fossil fuels.

If Ohio wants to lead, grow jobs, and start seeing economic and population growth, we need to be looking forward with our investments instead of backward. We need to back companies that do see the writing on the wall, instead of ignoring it for years, and we need to say goodbye to GM, which for years, has done little to integrate itself into our local economy other than bleed it to death slowly with one plant closing after another.

Barack Obama pledged to cut our dependence on foreign oil in a decade. This is the first step to how we do it.

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9 Responses

  1. Drexel Dave August 30, 2008 / 3:39 pm
    I would like to know if anyone would like to help organize a scooter-ride around the GM plant?

    The only way this is going to become a mainstream idea is if we put it into the mainstream the old-fashioned way: events constucted for media coverage.

    Lord knows our local corporate television boobs aren’t going to do it. Just check out and see how many car dealerships fill the daily airwaves with commercials.

    Great idea once again David

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  2. Shannon August 30, 2008 / 11:16 pm
    Great idea, but to get state or local governments involved, the new “scooter” manufacturer would have to be unionized. But then we would just have another “GM”.

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  3. David Esrati August 30, 2008 / 11:30 pm

    Why don’t we just make it employee owned? Navistar sold an under-performing re-manufacturing plant to it’s employees and it became a model of efficiency: The Great Game of Business

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  4. Donald Phillips August 31, 2008 / 9:06 am
    Throwing good money after bad… The Italians dominate the scooter market: Vespa, Aprila, Lambretta. You need to remove your mouths from the exhaust pipe and get oxygen into your brains.

    For the sake of argument, let’s suppose that the GM Moraine factory is converted to scooter manufacturing (and pigs fly), no doubt at tax payer expense, how long do you think this would last before it succumbed to the low-cost Siren call of China?

    This plan is as realistic as trying to reanimate a corps with a blood transfusion.

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  5. David Esrati August 31, 2008 / 9:17 am

    Donald, as the cost of shipping scooters from China and Italy continue to rise (with oil prices) and the dollar stays in the dumper, and as we keep beating a path to becoming a third world debtor country – the cost of making scooters here will be very competitive.
    Hopefully, the GM workers can prove they can build a better quality scoot than the Chinese. And, you are clueless- the Italians don’t dominate the scooter market in this country. The Lambretta name is now owned by someone else (can’t remember if it’s China, Taiwan or Korea). The Japanese three sell more scooters without trying than Vespa.

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  6. Donald Phillips August 31, 2008 / 9:38 am
    Okay, I’m ‘clueless’. Japan dominates the scooter market–and Guam dominates the market for coconuts. If GM workers can’t build a better quality car than their Japanese counterparts, and try to split hairs with me on that the next time you drive past a deserted auto factory in Dayton or read of Toyota’s market share, what makes you think GM workers are going to be competitive in scooters?

    You talk about incubating ‘big ideas’ that will resucitate Dayton’s economy, and you come up with low-skilled manufacturing?

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  7. David Esrati August 31, 2008 / 10:11 am

    Donald- I’m talking about building something this country needs, and providing jobs. If we are going to blow $56 million in taxpayers money, may as well give them something they need.
    I believe Americans can build a quality, competitive product that is suitable for export, but more to the point, we’ll be hard pressed to get scooters from China as the Chinese can afford them.
    It’s supply and demand. Global needs for scooters will rise. Someone will decide to make them in the US- may as well be us.

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  8. Donald Phillips August 31, 2008 / 3:37 pm
    Forgive me for being testy on Labor Day weekend.

    The US decided to stop making anything forty years ago–neoliberalism. Ain’t nothin’ gonna be built in ‘merica. Even the military is starting to use overseas vendors. The Air Force wants the EADS-built aerial tanker and almost all of the U.S. Navy’s overhaul and ship refitting work is performed abroad. That’s the plan; nothing is going to change it.

    There may be a nascant demand for scooters (however much I doubt that), but it will be filled by Asian companies. The return on capital is too low in US manufacturing to justify the investment. And a state subsidy isn’t the answer, not, if as I read, Ohioans are already taxed to death.

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  9. Zak September 4, 2008 / 1:55 am
    This matches up with one of the speeches at the DNC, where a small-time entrepreneur reconverted an auto plant in his area into a factory for making windmill parts. I think making use of the Moraine GM plant in this same way (retrofitting it to produce a different but similar product, whether scooters or windmill parts) would be excellent.

    Even better, though: I’d love to see Tesla Motors take over the plant for producing their next generation of electric car. With cost of living being cheaper here in the Midwest, it’d be a better investment for them. Pity that the Midwest tends to less environmental consciousness, however, meaning they’d lack the customer base to make it out here…

    Especially as Dayton could use this kind of jump. If only this are was more forward thinking, if we could inspire people to make use of Ohio’s tax rebates on buying solar panels (to provide electricity for the cars) and then get Montgomery County to reinvest in the rail-lines (Dayton is still on the major train routes, degraded as they are) to make transportation of the finished cars work more easily, etc. If we could get enough investors all on the same page, building multiple companies simultaneously to rebound off each other…

    But I have no idea how you’d get all those startups to work together. Hopefully someone thinks of such things for the future, though.

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