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Auto industry concerns continue

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Local companies in the balance

By Nathan L. McBroom

The chief executives from the nation’s three largest automakers left Washington on Thursday empty-handed after spending three days pleading for a $25 billion bailout.

With no government assistance, the companies and millions of U.S. jobs are in question, including close to 400 jobs here in Shelby County.

The leaders of Ford, GM and Chrysler came before a Senate panel this week asking for funds to help the companies stay solvent during the current economic crisis.

During the hearings the executives testified that if cash isn’t injected into the companies, they could go bankrupt in the near future.

The automakers were already earmarked $25 billion in assistance in the government’s historic $700 billion bailout of banks and mortgage backed securities.

However, that money is designated towards developing energy-efficient automobiles, not towards general liquidity.

On Thursday, Senate members delayed a vote on the request in order to give the companies a chance to create a plan for how the money would make the companies viable in the long-term.

Some market analysts are predicting that 4.5 million people could lose their jobs if the companies went bankrupt, with more than just Detroit feeling the blow.

In Kentucky, there are 50,000 jobs in automotive industry, which makes the state the third-largest automotive parts manufacturer behind Michigan and Ohio.

If the Big 3 auto manufacturers go belly up, local auto parts manufacturing companies would lose rights to their contracts with those companies and would have no prospect of staying open.

In Shelby County, at least two auto parts manufacturers, Martinrea Heavy Stamping and Johnson Controls, manufacture solely for one of the Big 3 companies.

Martinrea, a stamping facility that produces sheet-metal for car doors and fenders for the Ford Explorer, has already made several cuts to the its workforce and is rumored to be near closing.

Johnson Controls, which manufactures seats for GM, has also had to make cuts as demand has decreased.

If those companies were to close, Shelby County would lose close to 9 percent of its current industrial jobs.

Libby Adams, executive director of the Shelby Industrial and Technology Foundation, said she was watching the bailout hearings closely.

Though Adams would not comment on if should think the companies should be given the money or not, she said whatever happens, there will impact the community directly.

 “If those companies were to go under, it would be very devastating for us here,” she said.