Herbie Mays is 3M proud, and it shows — in the 3M shirt he wears; in the 3M ring he earned after three decades at the company’s plant in suburban Cincinnati; in the way he shows off a card from a 3M supervisor, praising Mays as “a GREAT employee.”
But it’s all nostalgia.
Mays’ last day at 3M was in March. Bent on cutting costs and refocusing its portfolio, the company decided to close the plant that made bandages, knee braces and other health care supplies and move work to its plant in Mexico.
At 62, Mays is unemployed and wants to work, though on the face of it he has plenty of opportunities. Barely 10 miles from his ranch-style brick home in this blue-collar city, GE Aviation has been expanding — and hiring.
In the state-of-the-art laboratory in a World War II-era building the size of 27 football fields, workers use breakthrough technology to build jet engines that run on less fuel at higher temperatures. Bright flashes flare out as GE workers run tests with a robotic arm that can withstand 2,000 degrees (1,090 Celsius).
The open jobs there are among 30,000 manufacturing positions available across Ohio. But Mays, like many of Ohio’s unemployed, doesn’t have the needed skills.
“If you don’t keep up with the times,” he said, “you’re out of luck.”
This is the paradox of American manufacturing jobs in 2017. Donald Trump won the presidency in great measure because he pledged to stop American jobs and manufacturing from going overseas. His message helped him capture Ohio and other Rust Belt states with the support of Mays and other blue-collar voters.