The Ball State University Center for Middletown Studies in conjunction with the university’s Institute for Digital Entertainment and Education is producing a feature documentary film about the changes in the manufacturing industry and its effects throughout the Midwest.
With the historical and sociological context of the Middletown studies, the film examines the continuing decline of industry in and around Muncie, Indiana, which experienced a boom of industrial growth in the 1890s that thrived into the 1980s. The end of Muncie’s manufacturing era is illustrated with the 2009 closing of Borg Warner (formerly Warner Gear). Borg Warner’s legacy—the creation of the differential gear and automatic transmission—is forever tied to the U.S. auto industry and lives on each year when the winner of the Indianapolis 500 is presented with the Borg Warner trophy.
We interviewed workers who took great pride in being multi-generational factory workers as well as in building the world’s best gear and transfer cases for more than 100 years. These union workers in Muncie and throughout the Midwest played a significant role in shaping manufacturing and influencing the communities in which they lived. With the closing of Borg Warner in Muncie, like many other manufacturers in the Midwest and across the nation, a once steady way of life has ended, and they find themselves in unknown, uncertain territory.