US Shutdown: An International Problem
By Sarah A. Webster
Editor in Chief
I had the pleasure of attending the Canadian Manufacturing Technology Show outside of Toronto this week. More than 150 new products were introduced at CMTS this year and more than 10,000 people attended the biennial event. And while new technologies were a hot topic of discussion, an even hotter topic was the looming—and then actual—shutdown of the US government.
The event ran from Sept. 30 through Oct. 3, with the shutdown taking place Oct. 1.
As I drove from my home in Detroit to the event the day before it started, and listened to the radio along the 401, the Canadian news was laser-focused on what a shutdown would mean for the Canadian economy, and in particular, Canadian manufacturing. About three-fourths of the Canadian manufacturing sector (worth $79 CDN billion in Ontario alone) is directly tied through the United States, usually as part of an OEM’s supply chain.
CMTS keynote speaker Sandra Pupatello, director of business and global markets at PwC, even called manufacturing “the Wayne Gretzky” of the Canadian economy.
As I took a shuttle back to my hotel after the first night of the show, I spotted a man on his iPhone watching a live stream of President Barack Obama’s speech to the public hours before the shutdown. He noticed me cranking my neck to listen and came and sat next to me to let me watch. (Canadians are so thoughtful!) He seemed pretty worried by it all.
He told me that he was from Quebec and runs a family-owned machine shop, with 80 employees. His biggest customer is Pratt & Whitney, one of the big aerospace engine manufacturers, and a US-based company. His firm makes parts for small engines that go into jets.
“This will probably affect us,” he said, with a disappointed look on his face.
His comments made me think about the impact on manufacturers and the economy elsewhere in the world, especially our other neighbor, Mexico.
The next day, I woke up to a Canadian newspaper showing the US Capital on the front page, with an analysis of what the shutdown will mean to Canadians, which, as it turns out, could be quite a lot. At the show, I was peppered with questions: “How long do you think the shutdown will last?” “Are you nervous?” “Do you think the lines at the border will be bad?”
Like other Americans, I had no hard answers, which seemed to make some Canadian acquaintances even more concerned. As I discussed the situation with one associate, I explained that we Americans were accustomed to a certain amount of dramatic brinkmanship. “You Americans don’t seem nearly as worried about this as we are,” she said, commenting on our relative ease over the situation. “Your making me feel a little better,” she noted.
Perhaps I was wrong to try and put her at ease over such a historic meltdown. But I was crossing my fingers and hoping that this situation would get resolved at the 11th hour, as we’ve, unfortunately, come to expect.