FLORA, Ill.—A year after the U.S. government swooped in to rescue two crippled auto giants, the car business is showing signs of life again—and so are local economies across the heartland that depend on it.
As soon as General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC finished racing into and out of bankruptcy court last fall, orders for headlamps and other car parts began streaming back to two factories here in this southern Illinois hamlet. The factories quickly re-hired about 400 of their 550 laid-off workers, giving Flora, Pop. 4,772, a big shot in the arm.
Local businesses are perking up. The Best Western just outside town occasionally fills all 41 of its rooms again. And shoppers are less scarce in Joe Etchison's appliance store. "Last year, people were sticking with the basics and skipping the stainless-steel refrigerators," he said, walking his downtown showroom trailed by Taz, his dog. People have "figured out the world has not ended."
Similar scenes are playing out across the Midwest, where the speedy stabilization of GM and Chrysler appears to have helped towns tied to the auto industry to get back on their feet more quickly than they may have otherwise.