Archive for February 4th, 2010

Yesterday, I received this photo in an e-mail from my friend, Bill Boland.  It’s a picture he snapped at 8 AM on Tuesday morning of the the steam whistle blowing for the last time at the south side location of the old Corning Glass Works plant in Corning, NY.  For over a hundred years, this whistle has bellowed out over this small city eight times a day, signaling the workers to the different times in the work day.  It was a sound that was part of the background of your life if you lived in any of the many factory towns throughout this country.

Corning has very much been a company town for the last century, and as Corning Glass Works grew so did the local workforce.  But the company, like any big company, evolved.  Corning Glass Works became Corning Inc and  they became part of the global community of high tech firms, opening plants and offices all over the world.

But with this change came the end of most of the local manufacturing, most of it moved to foreign shores.  Gone were many of the blue-collar jobs that supported the community for a century.  It’s a familiar story throughout the country.  The local company that anchors a community becomes larger and eventually finds greener pastures for their factories overseas or across borders, leaving behind a large portion of the locals to scramble  to find new jobs in this new global economy.

To be fair, Corning Inc  still dominates Corning  and has worked hard to uphold its paternal responsibility in the area.  It is still the largest employer in the area and still is responsible for much of the business that flows through all other local businesses.  It invests a  lot of effort in supporting this area and in keeping Corning a vibrant little city that is a fitting home for the headquarters of a global corporation.

But there’s something bittersweet in the last blast of this whistle that has sounded its shrill call over this city for over a century.  It has the feel of a symbolic end to an era that many people in this country remember with fond nostalgia,  especially those who are struggling to find a way to survive and prosper in a new globalized economy.

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