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Manufacturing jobs continue to vanish : Editorials : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
Manufacturing jobs continue to vanish

There was a time in the 1960s and 1970s when nearly 10,000 people went to work each day at two local plants: Western Electric just south of the U.S. Route 30 bridge in Montgomery and at Caterpillar located along Ill. Route 31 just outside municipal limits. At the same time, several other large employers were located nearby in the village, including Anchor Brush, Allsteel and Lyon Metal.

Last week's confirmation by Caterpillar officials that they are now in the process of moving 200 jobs from its local plant to a new facility in Victoria, Texas, is bad news for those employees and their families, and serves as a sobering reminder of just how much the local economy has changed since the early 1980s.

The departure of 200 more jobs from Caterpillar means that employment at the plant will be about 1,000-down significantly from the 3,200 workers listed as employed at the plant in the 1999 Illinois Manufacturers Directory.

Most of the manufacturing jobs that were once here in abundance have slipped away over the past three decades as manufacturers have either automated, shutdown, or moved their operations out of state or overseas to take advantage of lower labor costs.

It's a sad state of affairs for our local, state and national economy since all those good paying jobs with benefits fueled the growth of an upwardly mobile middle class that helped our community and nation grow and prosper in the post World War II era. Today a government agency-the Oswego School District-is the largest single employer in Kendall County and retail stores and restaurants account for much of the growth in the local job market. But on a positive note, the fact that our area experienced an unprecedented population boom amidst the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs is a testament to the continuing economic vitality of our region-and the willingness of many of our residents to commute great distances to and from work each day.

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