This is a tale of two cities and counties, with one city and county thrown in for comparison. The two subject areas are similar in size and their economies are congruent. Both have faced hard economic times and lost a major industry. In both cities the two major employers have overcome economic struggles and are viable entities. The present unemployment rate of the two is below the national average.
The two subject cities are my hometown of Gadsden and my present home of Kokomo, Ind. The similarities are incredible. Both towns lost major steel production plants. Gadsden was left with one major employer in Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Chrysler Corp. operates transmission facilities in Kokomo.
Gadsden’s Goodyear facility was selected for closure before representatives of Local 12 United Steel Workers union, Gadsden city fathers and state officials visited Goodyear and asked what it would take to keep the plant open. An agreement was reached to save Goodyear-Gadsden with its thousands of jobs. Thanks to the many men and women who were involved in critical negotiations to save the Goodyear-Gadsden operations.
Chrysler-Kokomo was somewhat different. Chrysler had filed for bankruptcy and was looking for ways to eliminate costs. As a part of Chrysler’s emergence from bankruptcy, the company was sold to European automotive manufacturer, Fiat of Italy. Chief Executive Officer Sergio Marchionne, in order to reduce costs, decided to outsource transmission manufacturing, dooming the manufacture of transmissions in Kokomo.
However, Marchionne was convinced to leave transmission manufacturing in Kokomo by Bryan Harlow, vice president of all Chrysler transmission operations, a decision that is paying the company handsome dividends.
Now the two cities and their respective counties share another parallel dilemma. Both are faced with the introduction of Frankenstein monsters called windmills. In this instance Kokomo has an advantage over Gadsden because Kokomo has seen the impact of the windmills on a community first hand.
I mentioned a third city and county in the opening paragraph of this commentary. Tipton County and its county seat, Tipton, are experiencing the disastrous repercussions of allowing a wind farm to be built in the area. Tipton and Tipton County have both been up close and personal with the trauma created by these Frankenstein monsters of the environment.
Kokomo has an advantage over Gadsden in that it can observe visually what these huge wind turbines entail because Howard County adjoins Tipton County.
After personal observation of the negatives of windmills, Tipton County has voted out of office two county commissioners who were stalwart wind supporters.
Because citizens of Howard County and Kokomo have seen the wind farm installations and the damage they can do, a huge war has developed between Howard County politicians who have allowed the wind farms and a large group of concerned residents.
Many citizens of Gadsden and Etowah County have never seen machines the size of the proposed windmills.
One blade requires two flatbed rail cars for transportation because of their length. Each windmill takes three of these huge blades. The battle is between the many (adjacent land owners who will have their property values destroyed) and the few (a large wind corporation and a miniscule number of land owners).
If Etowah politicians allow wind farms – maybe not now, but later after all residents have experienced the social damage these monstrosities cause – political careers will be in jeopardy.
Wind farms are not economically viable without subsidies from the federal government. The subsidies come from taxpayers, you and me.
Therefore, the irony is that the very people who have fought to protect their land and way of life will be required, through the taxes they pay, to supplement the incomes of the wind corporation and the land owners who have leased land to the wind developers.
Wind power, along with solar, are the two heaviest taxpayer subsidized energy contributors in the United States.
But the greatest irony of all is the fact the United States doesn’t need either wind or solar to meet energy needs. Only in today’s political environment do taxpayers have to pay dearly for “feel-good” programs such as wind and solar.
The citizens of Kokomo and Howard County have seen the enemy and do not like it. Gadsden and Etowah County have yet to witness these prodigious Frankenstein monsters.
Can a lesson be learned from Indiana?
John F. Floyd is a Gadsden native who graduated from Gadsden High School in 1954. He formerly was director of United Kingdom manufacturing, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., vice president of manufacturing and international operations, General Tire & Rubber Co., and director of manufacturing, Chrysler Corp.
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