May 20, 2024

Auto bailout issue includes Maine faces

The woes of America’s Big Three automakers are being felt in Maine, where auto-parts manufacturers that supply the U.S. car market are watching the debate on whether to give the automakers a $25 billion loan package.

Maine has three significant auto-parts suppliers that employ hundreds of workers among them. Those companies, in turn, work with many other smaller manufacturers that would also be affected by a downturn in the auto industry, said Lisa Martin, executive director of the Maine Manufacturing Association.

“Any negative effect will certainly impact a large number of employees,” Martin said. “Maine is home to many companies who provide subcontract work to the large auto-focused companies. The multiplier effect will certainly come into play.”

Maine used to have more auto-parts manufacturing jobs than it does now, with the numbers falling over the years as companies have taken their operations elsewhere.

But other companies remain. The largest include Masters Machine in Round Pond, Formed Fiber Technologies in Auburn and ZF Lemforder Corp. in Brewer.

Company executives and workers, along with municipal officials who rely on the companies for tax revenues, are closely watching as Congress debates whether to extend a bailout package to Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. The carmakers will make another pitch for a loan package this week.

Steve Masters, plant manager at Masters Machine, said it’s hard to know what’s going to happen. Masters’ grandfather started the company, which employs 110 people and makes valve components for shock absorbers.

At the least, the auto industry’s problems show the reach of the carmakers – not just in Maine but across the nation. Executives of the Big Three have warned that millions of jobs will be lost if they fail.

“It’s an issue for the country if something happens to those guys,” Masters said. “It isn’t just [union] jobs, it’s jobs in North America, it’s jobs all over the world. When we turn that ignition switch on, we don’t think about all the companies that are involved in manufacturing all the parts of that car.”

A spokesman for ZF Lemforder said with all the talk about bailouts and bankruptcy, it’s too early to forecast what might happen.

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