Remembering the “good old days” too often or too fondly is an occupational hazard for a veteran blogger like me. I try to temper “story time” with reflections upon how I would do things differently if I knew then what I know now. My father used to insist that the worst mistake you could make in life was to believe your own BS. I would amend that to include forgetting that the reasons you failed or succeeded were sometimes beyond your control.
An old friend and fellow gear industry lifer and I were reminiscing about our industry’s titans and bemoaning their decline to “mortal” status. While changes in management due to family owners bowing out and the influx of imported gearboxes played a big part in this situation, it is obvious that the overall gear market has changed too.
Most notably, we no longer have the big projects that require big, custom-built gearboxes. During the post-World War II years, right up until the end of the twentieth century, our country dreamed big and made those dreams a reality. Dams, locks, draw bridges, ore boats, steel mills, flood control projects, and mines — all needed bigger, better, and more sophisticated machinery. The leading companies in the gear business jostled each other to win those orders and our trade benefitted from those advances.
Other than wind turbines, which now seem to be mostly imported, the outlook for big, gearbox-intensive projects is bleak. Of course, the good old days needed thousands of smaller reducers, too. That former post office you drive under on I-94 in Chicago once was hummed with almost 10,000 gearboxes made in Cook County.
So again I ask: “Where did all the big projects go?”
Will our country ever build a new steel mill or even refurbish an old one? Have we lost the will or the ability to dream big?