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Democrats are trying to make political hay over what they say is John McCain's connection to those job losses in Wilmington, Ohio. But politics seems to be far from the minds of those who actually live and work there. For them, it's all about jobs and fears for the future.
From member station WMUB in Oxford, Ohio, Gary Scott reports.
GARY SCOTT: Wilmington is a southwest Ohio town of roughly 12,000 people. It boasts a college, good schools, quick access to cities like Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus, and until fairly recently, good jobs. Wilmington is mostly Republican, though its mayor, David Raizk, is a Democrat. Raizk knows politics are involved, and while he has gone out of his way not to get caught up in that, he says saving jobs is paramount.
Mayor DAVID RAIZK (Democrat, Wilmington, Ohio): Any kind of attention that we can draw, I think, is good for us. It really is because the more we keep this story on page one, the more that we can get the help that we need to try to turn this around.
SCOTT: Raizk suggests that he'd go to the devil himself if he knew anyone at DHL.
Mayor RAIZK; If anybody has an asset - a connection of anything, I don't care who it is. If Vladimir Putin knows the chairman and says, I'll make a phone call for you, absolutely, Vladimir. You do it. And that's the way I feel about this.
SCOTT: The bottom line for DHL is survival. Wolfgang Pordzik is DHL's executive vice president for corporate public policy. He says the company expects to lose $1.3 billion this year. Pordzik says DHL has ruled out all alternatives, and the decision to contract with UPS was tough.
Mr. WOLFGANG PORDZIK (Executive Vice President for Corporate Public Policy, DHL): Nobody within DHL has taken this decision lightly. We have thought about it long and hard. There's no alternative left. And if we want to maintain 40,000 jobs in the United States, within the DHL family, we ought to do all we can to make this deal work.
SCOTT: When DHL bought the Wilmington Air Park four years ago, the company saved existing jobs and created new ones. Now, the contract deal with DHL and UPS means most of those jobs will disappear. Roughly a third of the town works at the Air Park.
Deanna Reamer is a DHL materials assistant. Her husband, Bill, lost his job at the local GM dealership six weeks ago. Now, Deanna expects to lose her job. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: Her name is Deanna Liermann, not Deanna Reamer, and she works for ABX, which is a contractor for DHL.]
Talking over breakfast at the local Bob Evans, Reamer says this will hit her family hard.
Ms. DEANNA LIERMANN (ABX Employee): I've carried the insurance in the family for over 27 years. And, so now, I'm looking to make sure that my husband gets insurance wherever he - in whatever job that he gets. It could be devastating for our family budget, very much so.
SCOTT: It's hard to find anybody in Wilmington who's critical of Senator McCain in all this. Most blame DHL and feel betrayed by the company's decision.
Randy Riley is a Clinton County commissioner. He says Wilmington's first mistake was putting too many eggs in DHL's basket.
Mr. RANDY RILEY (Clinton County Commissioner): You know, if I could snap my fingers and redevelop the Air Park, I would never want to have one employer who has 10,000 employees. I would much rather have 20 employers that have 500 employees each to get 10,000 employees.
SCOTT: Back in the mayor's office, David Raizk says DHL's decision is going to have a devastating impact on Wilmington. As part of a task force designed to save these jobs, he says he hardly thinks if anything else these days.
Mayor RAIZK: You know, these jobs are just going to disappear if this goes through. When a foreign-owned company can come to the community and literally rip the fabric of it in two, it's very difficult. And how do we prepare for that?
SCOTT: Raizk says the next task force meeting is August 19th. He has met with both McCain and Barack Obama. He says he hopes they make good on their promise of congressional hearings.
For NPR News, I'm Gary Scott in Oxford, Ohio.
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