Vise-Grip plant closing sad day for entire state

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Willa Cather. Johnny Carson. Dorothy Lynch salad dressing. The Cornhuskers. Vise-Grip pliers.

Nebraska's a small state, and with fewer than 2 million people living here, we take pride in each other's accomplishments.

Thus it was sad to hear rumors, apparently true, of the pending closing of the Vise-Grip factory in DeWitt.

Like a mechanical version of duct tape, the Vise-Grip has a prominent place in any handyman's tool box, holding things together temporarily until more permanent repairs can be made, clamping down on the rusted, rounded-off heads of bolts holding farm equipment together, supplying an extra "set of hands" when none is available.

More than one set of Vise-Grips shows signs of being too close to a welder's work or other abuse.

Invented by Danish blacksmith William Petersen, many a Vise-Grip went to war during World War II, welded into the hulls of Liberty ships.

Peaking at more than 600 employees in 1928, the business was taken over by his family in 1962, finally selling out to Newell Rubbermaid in 2002, and operating since then under the name Irwin Industrial Tools.

It the Lincoln Journal Star report is correct, at least part of the production, like so many other American jobs, will be transferred to China.

Was the loss inevitable?

No, but the DeWitt plant was certainly fighting an uphill battle against foreign production that isn't hindered by the same constraints as American factories, such as the need to satisfy stockholders and comply with worker safety and environmental constraints.

But the closing is certainly a sign that cultivating and supporting innovation and industry of all types is a task that must be taken seriously.

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