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June 15, 2009

Same Skills, New Industry


Deborah Dunbar could be a case study in what's possible for laid-off autoworkers. Deborah was born and raised in Flint Michigan, just eight blocks from Buick headquarters. She spent 10 years working at two auto parts plants, becoming a highly skilled American factory worker.

When she was laid off,  it seemed no one was hiring automotive workers. But a local recruiter introduced her to a booming new industry: medical manufacturing. Deborah is now using the same exact skills she used to make car parts to make artificial knees, elbows, and hips. She’s hoping this might finally be the stable career she’s always wanted. Dick Gordon talks with Deborah about growing up automotive and leaving it all behind for something new.


David Lawrence was studying engineering at University of Michigan when a professor plucked him out of class to work at his nanotech start up company. Ten years into it David was burned out from the technological challenge and prolonged product development. Luckily, David discovered a way out. An avid rock climber, David was a loyal consumer of a hand salve made especially for climbers, and when he heard the company was for sale, he jumped on it. David is now manufacturing the salve in a shed in the backyard, and his mom is labeling the products in the evenings while she watches TV. But David says he is as happy as he’s ever been.

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