This past week much of the buzz in the Elkhart County business community has revolved around the all-too-likely closure of Cequent Towing Products in Goshen, a company that manufactures hitches and towing accessories and employs roughly 450 people here.
After studying profit margins and costs, officials at Cequent’s parent company, TriMas, based out of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., have recommended closing the Goshen plant and moving those production lines to Reynosa, Mexico. A final decision is expected in November.
This recommendation is disturbing on a number of fronts. Our local economy was decimated four years ago as the national recession took hold. Building it back up has been an uphill battle ever since. The loss of 450 local jobs will have a significant strain on our recovery, as well as the lives of those who would be newly unemployed.
Meanwhile, TriMas officials reported record third quarter profits on Thursday. Third-quarter sales for TriMas were a reported $336 million, up 21 percent from the same quarter in 2011. Profit for the quarter jumped from $35.8 million in 2011 to $36.6 million in 2012. Good for them. It is good to see hard work rewarded in the business sector. And we certainly feel it is safe to say that our local workers contributed to the success Cequent and TriMas have been experiencing.
We can’t blame TriMas for examining its business plan for increased efficiencies and cost savings. That’s smart business and TriMas owes it to its shareholders to be diligent about seeking profits. But at what cost? How much money is enough? John D. Rockefeller was once asked that question. His reply: “Just a little bit more.”
To achieve more, the cost appears to be American jobs. Indiana jobs. Goshen jobs. All this after Goshen City Council members twice in the past seven years approved tax phase-ins for improvements at Cequent, saving the company tens of thousands of dollars in tax costs.
We understand that business is business and that numbers matter. But we also understand that a community is a community and people matter. We hope — we’ll even plead — that TriMas executives think this through carefully and consider the lives of those who will truly be affected by this possible closure.
In the quest for “a little bit more,” it pains us that some of our own will potentially have a whole lot less.