Page last updated at 07:22 GMT, Monday, 27 July 2009 08:22 UK

US manufacturing jobs go to China

By Greg Wood
BBC North America business correspondent

Doug Bartlett's factory being dismantled
Doug Bartlett's factory is now being dismantled

In the small town of Cary, near Chicago, you can see American industry being dismantled in front of your eyes.

Doug Bartlett's factory used to make electronic circuit boards. But orders collapsed as the recession took hold.

The factory shut in March with the loss of 87 jobs. Now the wrecking crew is in and the factory is being gutted.

"It hurts," says Doug. "You hate to see the people laid off."

Doug is selling off all the usable machinery. He blames the death of his business on unfair competition from the Chinese, accusing them of artificially devaluing their currency to undercut American goods.

"You have to stop the Chinese from cheating," he says.

"We're not only watching the dismantling of my company, we're also watching the dismantling of the circuit board industry in the United States and the dismantling of American industrial might."

Countrywide situation

The gutting of this factory is not an isolated incident. It's being repeated across the United States.

Doug Bartlett
Mr Bartlett said it hurt to make people redundant

In the past 18 months nearly two million American manufacturing jobs have been lost.

Doug Bartlett tried to anticipate the downturn by merging what was left of his business with a local rival, Midwest Printed Circuit Services, banding together for survival.

More than 20 of his former staff are now employed at Midwest, including Mike Fennelly, who spent nearly 30 years working for Doug.

"He actually told me on my 28th anniversary at Bartlett that they were closing down the shop and they were merging up here. That was a shock," says Mr Fennelly.

"It was actually going to close the doors."

But even with the combined strength of the two companies, orders for circuit boards are still running at half the level they were a year ago.

"It's a dire situation," says the president of Midwest, Joe Fehsenfeld. "I'd like to see our government utilise our trade laws that are actually on the books as an effective measure that allows us to compete fairly.

Joe Fehsenfeld
Joe Fehsenfeld says the situation is dire

"We're not looking to be unfair. We're looking to compete fairly."

As for Doug Bartlett, he's conducting the last rites for a business founded by his father in 1952.

He enjoyed the boom years. But now, competition from Asia, whether fair or not, is turning out the lights across a swathe of US manufacturing industry.

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