On September 2, 2015 the vice-president of the corporation that I work for came my factory and announced that our largest customer would not be renewing their contract with us. This customer accounted for about 70% of our sales and we would not be getting any of their buisiness in 2016. He announced layoffs affecting 3/5 of the plant, effective in 60 days, to reduce to a core group and to build up sales again.
However before the 60-day layoff period had matured, the VP returned to let us know that, as the corporation had not met expectations of profitability in the year, that the board of directors had decided to close the plant. For some reason they chose not to pursue to sell the plant, but to close down operations, shut off the lights and lock the doors, leaving all of the equipment in the dark, presumably to sell them off for pennies on the dollar.
It seems that we have been, as Kramer from Seinfeld would say, "written off".
April 30th is the official last day of operations, although the rumor mill has been turning out grist of an earlier date. Anyone staying until the end, will get a bonus equal to seven weeks of their base pay. The corporation has been generous enough to extend severance pay equaling a weeks worth of base pay for each year of seniority, up to ten weeks.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics claim that Illinois has a net loss of 14,100 manufacturing jobs in 2015. In the same period, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio have gained a net 41,500 manufacturing jobs in the same period. It may be that the "unfriendly business environment" here in the Land of Lincoln may have contributed to the decision to close the plant, but I could only speculate on all of the factors that may or have may not contributed to the decision. It does not really matter. 
In retrospect, I should have left a few years ago. The corporation had not re-invested in the factory in a few years and had largely ceased any other facets of continuous improvement or preventative maintenance on the production equipment. Ever deaf to our concerns that the machines were full of obsolete technology and falling apart mechanically, the maintenance department went from idleness to firefighting to idleness: a new and dispiriting routine.
Yet I was complacent and reluctant to quit resting on my laurels, my seniority, my familiarity with the equipment and my four weeks of paid vacation. Despite the fact that I had not really learned anything new, that my technologically sensitive skill set was getting a few years behind the cutting edge, I was disinclined to leave the comforts and familiarity of the company.
This was a career-minded place, with folks who had invested twenty years into it. This factory had four different owners since opening twenty-one years ago. To the bean counters in each concurrent corporate office, the factory represented simple expenses and revenues, I am sure. Most of the folks who had put in ten, fifteen, or twenty-plus years fully expected that we would be sold again. In these fellows, there was a feeling of pride, a sense of unique craftsmanship in producing the product, which created a sense of belonging or maybe ownership in their hearts.
This was fallacy. Now we are dead men walking in a soon to be closed factory. Everything and every room in the factory represents a care or an aspiration which has been lost. I came to this place from the automotive industry where competition was cutthroat with a legacy of contraction, idled union workers and hulking, ancient abandoned factories of brick and steel. I did not think that I would remain at my soon-to-be-former employer for more than three years and told people as much that, in my experience, would be surprised if the place would still be open in five.
Yet three years turned into five and five years into ten. To my surprise, I have now spent twelve of my eighteen years of experience in this career in this place. Nevertheless, the lessons of my past came true: in this day and age, no factory stays open for long. One has to remember that no one who works for a corporation has any ownership of the factory, of the operation. The only real ownership that one should have is to oneself and to one's family, to one's skill set and to one's retirement accounts.
It was a long run, a good run. I was adequately compensated. The work-life balance, if a bit uncertain at times, was generally favorable. It was clean and comfortable. I enjoyed the camaraderie of my co-workers and my superiors more often than not. I hope to find the same attributes in my future endeavors. Until then, I need to keep my chin and my spirits up. I would be a liar, however, if I write that I have been doing a good job at this.
The uncertainty of this situation began earlier this year and has had the cumulative effect of being a long-term stressor. I have often been prone to intermediate anxieties, which has worsened and grown to a nearly constant and unwelcome companion. I have gained weight. I do not sleep well. I find the enjoyment of extracurricular pursuits to be elusive. I feel distracted and disconnected. I am uninspired to leave the house or to do routine tasks and activities.
I fill out job applications. There are many positions available and the internet makes finding them abundant. Yet, I hear back from few of them. It is disheartening to apply to a half dozen positions and hear back from none of them. With the ones I do hear back from, I interview well. They view my skills and experience to be favorable but do not have first-shift positions available.
Time is on my side. I have the luxury of staying until they close and the benefit of seventeen weeks of pay as a bonus thereafter in addition to any unemployment benefits that I may take advantage of. I can afford to wait for an excellent opportunity: A growth minded company with a real working philosophy of continuous innovation that seeks to innovate with new technology, the right pay, the right shift, a favorable work-life balance and a favorable commute. I am in a good place to hold out for a position with those attributes.
Until then, I just have to keep my head up, and be grateful for the blessings in my life.
"The days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well, I have really good days."- Ray Wylie Hubbard
[ 1 ] https://www.illinoispolicy.org/strong-illinois-jobs-report-in-october-but-manufacturing-losses-continue/