Miami Economy Struggles 30 Years After Manufacturer Closes

Miami Economy Struggles 30 Years After Manufacturer Closes
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Former employees of BF Goodrich reunite today, decades after the tire plant closed its doors in Miami. And years later, the manufacturer still impacts the region.

Posing for pictures, shaking hands and sharing old stories. The people hit hardest by BF Goodrich closing 30 years ago reunite again.

Buddy Kerley was a line worker. He remembers the panic employees felt losing their jobs.

“Some people filed bankruptcy, some people sold stuff, I mean you could drive down the streets and it’d be boats and trailers and motorcycles and cars for sale I mean it was just unreal,” he says.

“When you lose about a $60 million annual payroll in your community, it has a devastating effect,” says Larry Roberts with the Ottawa County Historical Society.

City officials say Miami is still recovering.

“The Goodrich plant closed down in 1986, the economy is still hard. Around here we still have a high unemployment rate,” says Miami City Council member Neal Johnson.

“The jobs that were replaced after Goodrich left were not as good of paying jobs as we had with BF Goodrich, therefore our economy is not as thriving as it once was,” adds Roberts.

Once the plant closed its doors, many workers left Miami altogether, others staying to find work in what they say was a nonexistent job market.

Kerley didn’t want to uproot his family.

“You get to thinking what am I going to do now? And you have other obligations to meet,” he says.

The manufacturer closing completely changed the way of life and the local economy. Former employees had to live on a much smaller salary and local merchants saw less business.

“I made half of much on that job as I was making at Goodrich, and of course you have to adjust. It was hard,” says Kerley.

Although adjusting didn’t fully revive Miami’s economy, strides are being made in the right direction.

“In the past we just depended on BF Goodrich just to carry basically the town through and now we have diversification with other smaller industries operating here in Miami today,” says Roberts.

More than 100 people came out to the reunion. Artifacts, photos and videos from when the plant was open are on display at the Dobson Museum in Miami.