3,000, Then 600, Then 0
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News items above are from Wikipedia. For Hopedale news from 25, 50 and 100 years ago, see below this textbox.
3,000, Then 600, Then 0
The Boston Globe
September 1, 1978
In 1963, 15 years ago, a cloud appeared on the horizon of the Draper Corp., a Massachusetts loom manufacturer. Domestic sales were up, the company told the shareholders in the annual report, but exports had fallen off for various reasons, including “competition from European manufacturers with their now modernized plants and their lower wages.”
Four years later, the Pittsburgh based Rockwell Standard Corp., busy turning itself into a multinational conglomerate, paid a pretty penny for Draper and it’s factory in Hopedale. Pretty soon Rockwell Standard become Rockwell International and the 3000 people working in Hopedale, a tiny part of an organization that today has 115,000 employees all over the world.
Loom manufacture was a specialty in Massachusetts back in the 1960s, a legacy of the days when New England was the center of the nations textile industry. But the textile mills moved south and, later, overseas. So perhaps it was inevitable that loom manufacture here should slowly dwindle. And it did dwindle under the tutelage of Rockwell International and other multinational corporations that bough out Draper’s competitors.
Last Tuesday, ten years to the day after Rockwell formally acquired Draper, The Globe carried a story that the Hopedale plant was to shut –albeit by phases. But phase have been the order of the day and the 3000 employees of 1968 had shrunk to 600 already.
Happily, state economic development officials could be optimistic for the people in Hopedale, voicing confidence that jobs were available for their skills. And they could point to the fact that loom manufacture is a low-growth, relatively low-technology industry with no real future. It is being replaced in our economy with high-technology industries like computer and electronics manufacture, in which 70,000 jobs exist today that were undreamed of only 20 years ago, and in which annual growth rates of 25 and 30 percent a year are commonplace.
Still there is that nagging doubt about what happens to the individual who work in these low-technology industries—textiles, shoes, apparel—that have been the way of life for thousands of New Englanders who will probably never participate in the vital growth of the new industries.
The Draper management back in 1968 (1967 is the year usually given for the Rockwell takeover) made a shrewd decision by selling out at the peak of the market. Rockwell bought the troubles that might have sent Draper to the brink. The Draper employees unless they were shareholders, got little of that protection.
The Hopedale plant may have lost out to forces that were irresistible—foreign competition, loss of markets, migration of customers. There is that uncomfortable worry about the impersonality of the giant conglomerates. It is a doubt that provoked Federal Trade Commission Chairman Michael Pertschuk to testify before the Senate last July.
“If there were significant economic efficiencies to be gained from conglomeration, I might view these problems somewhat differently. But the best available evidence seems to suggest that conglomeration is generally not characterized by major new efficiencies…It is therefore particularly appropriate to consider other values,” he said, recommending that Congress seriously consider limits on corporate size.
With luck, Hopedale will survive its trauma. But is experience will be one more bit of evidence that the public and Congress will bear in mind in groping for better policies to deal with the giant conglomerates that play such an enormous role in our economy.
This article was in a binder of clippings saved by Bob Anderson when Rockwell managers were throwing such items into the trash.