It is called survival of the fittest.
Such a mindset is integral to most companies whose market is flooded with rivals, all of whom rely on the same offerings to entice customers to buy from them — product quality, on-time delivery, lowest possible pricing and innovation that consistently debuts the latest and greatest in modern technology and consumer convenience.
One industry that quickly comes to mind is the world of electronics and cellphones. TV commercials daily are hawking the latest electronics miracle.
But another, and one that is much closer to home, is appliance manufacturing. It is a relevant topic because the Cleveland and Bradley County community have enjoyed more than a century-old history in this arena. Thanks to company names like Hardwick Stove, Brown Stove, Cleveland-Tennessee Enamel, Dixie Foundry, Dixie Products, Magic Chef, Maytag and Whirlpool, our hometown’s heartstrings are tied to the production of white goods.
It is why we watch with personal interest announcements from afar like last week’s disclosure by Whirlpool Corporation that a soft business market — compliments of the three-year Great Recession — will force the world’s leading manufacturer and marketer of home appliances to slice its international workforce by 5,000 employees, with most of the cuts to come in North America and Europe.
The number constitutes 10 percent of the company’s total and the reductions are expected to span a two-year period through the end of 2013.
Company officials in Benton Harbor, Mich., site of Whirlpool Corporation’s headquarters for 100 years, are not providing site-specific information about local community impact. Likely, it is too early to know such details.
Surely, the moment is bittersweet for the U.S.-based manufacturer because in 2010 it committed to the rebound of American manufacturing by announcing plans to construct a new $120 million plant in Cleveland to replace the aging complex on King Edward Avenue. Through 2013, Whirlpool expects to have invested some $200 million in the local project.
Less than 24 hours before the company’s announcement to financial analysts last week that it would be cutting its workforce, while also closing a refrigeration plant in Fort Smith, Ark., local plant leaders were touring Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam through the construction site of the giant new million-square-foot plant on Benton Pike.
Later the same day, a few Whirlpool officials attended the dedication of a new home for the Terry Parker family that had been constructed to replace what the April 27 tornadoes had blown apart. Whirlpool employees helped in its rebuilding. The company itself provided the replacement appliances, as it is doing for all Bradley County families who lost everything in those murderous storms.
Whirlpool is a good friend to our community. Its employees are our neighbors, our confidantes and our loved ones. This workforce reduction changes nothing. Cuts have come before, and the company has rebounded each time.
Any American manufacturer in today’s business climate faces its good days and bad days.
Last week was no less true for our largest employer. Thursday was a good day, Friday a bad day. But the sun will rise tomorrow and another day will come because this company remains embedded in the heart of our community. It is entrenched and we take great pride in knowing the manufacturer is here.
Whirlpool and its Cleveland-based employees will face many good days ahead, especially with the move of plant workers into their new home.
We wish them well and we encourage all to remain focused on what is within their control.
The Great Recession one day will end, and American manufacturers who stay the course until then are those who will weather any storm.