Friday, February 24, 2012

De-industrialization?

It's been a big frustration of mine that whenever I hear my friends' or colleagues' dreamy business ideas these days, it's always food or drink-related. Do you think that entrepreneurs in Shenzhen dream about opening up a noodle shop? So this is a bit of a blow (via Planet Money):
Good-bye, Viagra; hello, kombucha: The old Pfizer plant on Flushing Avenue will soon become a booming culinary production facility. In fact, Grub Street has learned that Kombucha Brooklyn, Brooklyn Soda Works, and Steve's Ice Cream have already signed the leases and taken up shop 
The eight-story, 660,000-square-foot Williamsburg plant was originally eighty-sixed in 2008... The building's unique (FDA-approved) facilities are ideal for food production. For example, KBBK will be able to brew tea and store live cultures for its kombucha at a specific, controlled range of temperatures.
The plan has at least one well-known supporter, Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz. His office e-mailed the following statement to us:
Losing Pfizer was a big blow to Brooklyn but I was determined to make sure that this building continued to provide high quality jobs to Brooklynites... Like Pfizer, these companies are starting small, but one day they may be as big or even bigger than Pfizer and they will never turn their back on their place of birth, Brooklyn, U.S.A.
It's not like Pfizer was going to keep the Brooklyn site open forever -- I assume that there was a great deal of emotional attachment to the site that allowed it to remain open as long as it had. Also, using it as a tea-brewing facility is better than nothing. A job making tea is better than no job at all.

But there's something vaguely distressing about a business class doesn't sees the manufacturing sector as a place to make money. Sometimes I wonder if they see it at all. 

4 comments:

  1. "...but one day they may be as big or even bigger than Pfizer..."

    Slinging kombucha? Mr. Markowitz' opinions may be skewed due to the effective local concentration of hipsters in Brooklyn.

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  2. At the waterfront in Pittsburgh once the world capital of steel one can not purchase a decent pair of work boots. More accurately the steel works were torn down and big box stores were opened.

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  3. It may come back. Gas prices are going up. Transporation of goods is becoming a large consideration of final cost of goods sold. Local factories help with increasing transportation costs and mitigate risks of fluctuating exchange rates.

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  4. 1) I wonder if loss of manufacturing might become a matter of security - considering China's ambition (or anyone else's, though China's the current favorite) and their willingness to use trade as an instrument of state (again, not singularly Chinese), depending on anyone else for your economy and safety could be a mistake.

    2) If Paul Hodges is correct, a lot of people are going to be more focused on needs and less focused on wants and desires in the future. Given that the nonmanufacturing sector exists to supply wants (because those are far less tangible), it could be in for a rough time of it, as will those who depend on it.

    3) We can't all be artisans (we couldn't afford to eat), but I wonder if there's a corrosive effect on one's soul by making things that no one needs and which can be blown away by the breeze of spring. An epigram for a Harlan Ellison story says, "A man is what he does with his attention."

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