Every leader knows that the Chinese character for “crisis” also means “opportunity”.
There is a small factory in Freeport, Ill. that manufactures sensors. It was once owned by Honeywell, but was purchased in 2010 by multi-national Sensata Technologies . Plans are underway to close the plant and move it’s 170 jobs to China. According to Reuters, Sensata had planned to close the plant since it acquired the facility. Because Sensata is partly owned by Bain Capital, the closing has become another ping-pong ball in the game we call “political debate”.
The wise leader always asks “why?” The wise leader wants to learn from the crisis.
The closing of the Freeport plant provides the opportunity to ask some important questions relevant to the loss of businesses, jobs and tax revenue vexing Illinois:
- Why is Sensata leaving?
- Is there something about the business climate in Illinois that is contributing to its leaving?
- Is Sensata unable to find the skills, know how, suppliers, customers, necessary to operate a sustainable business in Illinois?
(It is easy to dismiss Sensata leaving Illinois as another chapter in the story of cheap labor, but there are sure to be other reasons. For example, if the plant were selling huge amounts of sensors into the Illinois market, cheap labor alone wouldn’t be enough to get them to move. Reuters suggests that the market for Sensata’s products in the domestic economy had dried up, but was “burgeoning” in China. So, this is not just about “cheap labor”. it is about the domino effect of an economic crisis in the United States. )
So far I haven’t read or heard anything about our Congresswoman convening a meeting with Sensata to see what she can learn from this crisis/opportunity that might truly benefit her constituents and her state and even her country. That’s what I wish she were doing Tuesday night. That would be true leadership.
But, instead of learning from this crisis, she is using this as an opportunity to send a message to businesses everywhere: try to make a sound business decision in Illinois and a congresswoman will lead a protest. Dare to implement a sustainable business model and she’ll nail 35,000 signatures to your front door.
And if this “incident” gets so embarrassing for Romney that somehow he becomes the hero and influences Sensata to reverse its closing order, it won’t be because of any critical thinking, any broad interest in Illinois’ economy or any genuine learning from this crisis that can help us build a sustainable state economy. No, it will just represent politics as usual in leaderless Illinois.
(This just in: see my followup at http://evanston.patch.com/blog_posts/jan-a-no-show-but-the-show-goes-on )