Midland: Winter is coming...
It wouldn’t exactly be right to say that Midland, Mich., doesn’t have a lot going for it. It certainly has more going for it than most other cities of 40,000 in the middle of nowhere, U.S.A. But all of those things are just manifestations of really the only thing that Midland has going for it, and that is Dow Chemical. And now Dow is going away, at least in its current form. And that has the city, 15% of whose residents draw a paycheck from Dow, a little worried about that tie-up with DuPont, even if Dow has promised to keep at least one of the three companies that will eventually emerge from the one company that used to be two in the northern Michigan town. Because, you know, what if your part of Dow ends up in Delaware?
“Our world’s being rocked,” said Gary Skory, 60 years old, director of the Midland County Historical Society. “To say there’s a lot of concern is an understatement….”
Midland Mayor Maureen Donker, who met with Dow officials last week after the merger’s announcement, said the company has signaled that one of the three planned spinoff companies would be based in Midland, though “we remain anxious about how the merger will affect area Dow employees and vendors.”
“If Dow moved out, Midland would be a ghost town,” said Rusty Sullivan, 68, who teaches crane safety in Midland.
Over in Delaware, people seem quite a bit less concerned, possibly because when people think of Delaware today, DuPont comes in a distant third to “tax shelter” and “corporate headquarters in post-office boxes,” both of which have Wilmington’s office towers filled with the lawyers and accountants that really make up the bedrock of its economy, and its suburbs filled with people who work in faraway Philadelphia, a whole half-hour ride away on the train. To say nothing of Joe Biden. All of which gives Wilmington a little more swagger than DowDuPont’s other co-headquarters.
Wilmington Mayor Dennis Williams said Wilmington, a city of 72,000, has the “opportunity to support the growth and development of these three new businesses….”
Charles Elson, professor of finance at the University of Delaware, said piecemeal moves by DuPont, like moving executives out of its longtime downtown headquarters, have already diminished its role in Wilmington. While the merger could bring more change, he said, it may offer a chance for the city to reduce its dependence on the company that put the city on the map, and reinvent itself.
“If DuPont can headquarter here, other companies can too,” Mr. Elson said. “I’m an optimist.”