Bond talks about auto industry bailout at parts factory in Dexter

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Noreen Hyslop ~ The Daily Statesman
U.S. Sen. Kit Bond is seen with EMCON plant manager Joe Galemmo during Monday's visit to the local plant to explain his proposal to try to rescue the auto industry.

DEXTER, Mo. -- U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, in a discussion with local EMCON officials and other area businessmen affected by the current automotive industry crisis, voiced his concerns Monday in Dexter with regard to the potential loss of jobs within Missouri's auto industry and detailed his bipartisan "rescue package."

Bond, flanked by EMCON plant manger Joe Galemmo and the plant's human resources manager Bobby Ward, minced no words as he got to the purpose of his visit.

"It's really important for people to understand what a broad impact the auto industry has on America, on Missouri, and on Dexter," he told the crowd of about 20 people gathered in EMCON's conference quarters.

"The auto industry employs about 220,000 Missourians. I'm not willing to turn my back on those workers. I am not willing to stand by while America sinks further into recession," Bond said.

Directing his attention to Galemmo, Bond asked the current status of the local plant and was told by Galemmo, "We have about 570 working. This is the lowest we've been in about two years."

EMCON, Galemmo said, employs more than 700 at full speed.

"GM, Ford and Chrysler make up for about 90 percent of our business," Galemmo told Bond.

If any one of those industries goes down, he said, "we'd see a definite impact on the community here."

"The American people," Bond said, "are tired of hearing about bailouts, and I'm tired of hearing about bailouts. It really bothers me when the federal government has to get in to help a private company, but when you look at the impact of the auto industry, if they were to go down, the job impact would be far greater on our economy than what we're planning to put into it."

What Bond proposes to be "put into" the auto industry in the form of a rescue package involves using a $25 billion fund that was established originally for the purpose of engineering more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles.

"If we don't have an auto industry, $25 billion isn't going to do anyone any good," Bond said.

Bond, working with Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, proposes taking that $25 billion extending emergency loan assistance to the auto companies. He said the deal is not a blank check from the federal government.

"The bill includes taxpayer protection, ensuring taxpayers will be repaid for their emergency assistance and will share in the turnaround profits of participating automakers, and executive accountability so failed executives won't be rewarded," he said.

Local auto dealership owner Autry Morlan, who was at Monday's table discussion, voiced his concern to Bond for the industry overall. Morlan said that in recent days, he has been forced to reduce his 140-member staff by 20 percent.

"It's put more load and more stress on the people that we have remaining," Morlan noted, and added, "It's tough."

The EMCON plant, formerly Arvin, was established in Dexter in 1973 and manufactures emission control systems for GM, Ford, Chrysler, Harley-Davidson and Hyundai and is a primary employer in Stoddard County.

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