LIANE HANSEN, host:
With so much news about layoffs, we ordinarily wouldn't note job cuts at a small manufacturer in northeastern Ohio. But when the company is the site that then President-elect Barack Obama used to promote his economic stimulus plan, its troubles take on a new meaning. From member station WCPN in Cleveland, Dan Bobkoff has the story.
DAN BOBKOFF: Just over two weeks ago, this was the scene.
(Soundbite of applause and cheering)
BOBKOFF: Throngs of national media descending on a small manufacturer of bolts and fasteners. The president-elect, just days before taking office, came to Cardinal Fastener and Specialty Company in Bedford Heights. Mr. Obama held up the firm's success with green energy manufacturers as a model on the bad economy.
(Soundbite of then President-elect Barack Obama speaking at Cardinal Fastener and Specialty Company)
President BARACK OBAMA: Cardinal hired two workers this week. With all the bad news going out there, with all the word of jobs being lost and businesses shuttered, jobs were created right here.
BOBKOFF: After the president's speech, John Grabner, the company's excited president, found himself telling reporters that Ohio's unemployed would do well to consider his growing company.
Mr. JOHN GRABNER (President, Cardinal Fastener and Specialty Company): We are growing. Yes, we're growing quickly, and so those people who are out of work, I tell them come out, take us your application. We'll see what happens.
BOBKOFF: But he had a different tone when we talked a few days ago.
Mr. GRABNER: Well, you never like to say goodbye to eight folks. I mean, that's a horrible situation.
BOBKOFF: Cardinal's business selling bolts to wind turbine makers has been growing quickly. But the bulk of its products still wind up in big construction projects or companies like Caterpillar or John Deere. Just lat week, those companies combined laid off nearly 23,000 workers. So down the supply chain, companies like Cardinal suffer, too. That's why about 12 percent of Cardinal's staff was just let go.
Dr. SUSAN HELPER (Economics, Case Western Reserve University): My first reaction was a mixture, I guess, sort of pessimism like, oh, man, here's another bad thing about manufacturing, but also maybe more optimism.
BOBKOFF: Susan Helper is an economics professor at Case Western Reserve University.
Dr. HELPER: Here's this very well-managed company that, through no fault of its own, is facing low demand, and so it's forced to lay off workers, but it also suggests a way out.
BOBKOFF: The way out, she says, may be that stimulus plan Barack Obama was promoting when he came to Cardinal. The bill supports green energy companies, and Helper hopes the money comes fast enough to save struggling firms.
John Grabner of Cardinal Fastener doesn't see much irony in having to lay off workers just days after the president's visit. Instead, he points to another line from the president's speech.
Mr. GRABNER: To quote the president-elect when he was here and the president when he was giving his inauguration speech, it's going to get worse before it gets better. That's the reality of life.
BOBKOFF: And Grabner says there's still strength in the wind turbine's supply business. Even with the layoffs on the factory floor, he's looking to hire an engineer for the wind products division. And if the stimulus goes through, when the economy improves, he hopes to be hiring, again, later in the year. For NPR News, I'm Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland.
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