Allentown Was Doing Just Fine Until Barack Obama Came Along

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 30 2011 4:23 PM

Allentown Was Doing Just Fine Until Barack Obama Came Along

Mitt Romney keeps bracketing Barack Obama's statements and campaign trips with smart, unemployment-focused attacks. Obama goes to Philadelphia; Romney goes to Allentown and reminds voters (or the media, more accurately) that the Allentown Metal Works plant that Obama hailed has gone out of business.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Advertisement

It's smart for a challenger to pin every failure on the incumbent's forehead. How much sense does it make? Well... the Metal Works had been reeling for years, as had so many industrial plants of its kind in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. It was failing; it was also brought down by stupidity. Spencer Soper reports:

The end stands in stark contrast to the bold proclamations made in 2005 when Montgomery County venture capitalist Ed Brill purchased the plant and vowed that it would become the Lehigh Valley's next manufacturing success story. But his company, BVI Precision Materials, defaulted on loans and Allentown Metal Works took it over in 2008. Allentown Metal Works incorporated in Delaware in 2008, according to records with the Delaware secretary of state.
Brill was hired as an employee of Allentown Metal Works, but was fired within months. Brill's termination, and $4.7 million in BVI debt incurred before Allentown Metal Works took it over, has been the subject of a lawsuit between Brill and Allentown Metal Works.
Brill maintains Allentown Metal Works agreed to assume $4.7 million in debt as part of its agreement to take over BVI. He alleged the company wrongfully fired him and failed to pay the debt.

There was a second problem. As the local media reported, the owners of AMW expected to get more business from stimulus spending on construction etc. It didn't happen. That's something you can blame many Democrats for, but at what point does it connect to Romney's business philosophy and his message? AMW's only chance for survival was an infusion of capital from the government into local projects, something Romney opposed. Its collapse was classic creative destruction -- there simply wasn't business for the plant to do anymore. If you're against bailouts, as Romney is, and you're for bankruptcies and restructing in failing industries, as Romney is, how exactly were you going to save AMW? You weren't.

I'm definitely interested in what Romney says here, because the Republican promise in 2012 involves a lot of creative destruction.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.