Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein:
The other shoe drops, sudden as the first. On the second Monday in October, an executive from Detroit is back at the assembly plant, and the GM’ers lucky enough to still have their jobs are all called to another meeting eighteen minutes after the start of the first shift. The company hasn’t yet figured out whether Janesville will get its new small car, but it has made another decision. General Motors is in more desperate shape than it was four months ago, when it gave the plant the 2010 death sentence. That was optimistic. Production will stop in ten week. Eighty-five years of turning out Chevrolets—poof! Gone. Two days before Christmas.
News like this ricochets through town, and, over at M&I Bank on Main Street, it takes no time to reach Mary Willmer. Mary is community president of M&I, Janesville’s largest bank, and for weeks now she has had the unsettling sensation that, for someone in her position, the news could not be getting any worse. Four Mondays ago, she watched as Lehman Brothers, the storied investment bank, collapsed and filed the biggest bankruptcy case in U.S. history. Last Monday, the stock market crashed. By Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average had plunged 18 percent, its sharpest decline in a single week. On Saturday, at a meeting in Washington a few blocks from the White House, the International Monetary Fund’s managing director warmed that the fragility of financial institutions of Europe and America had “pushed the global financial system to the brink of systemic meltdown.”
Mary knows pretty much everyone in Janesville who matters, and she knows that, for most people in town who do not happen to be bankers, these have seemed like remote events of a distant crisis. Today, the crisis is coming home.