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In an article in the Financial Times earlier this week ("Growth in Jobs Belies Rust Belt's Reputation"), Ed Crooks reported on a "modest, but noticeable" manufacturing recovery in Rust Belt states (consistent with a recent article of mine, "Why U.S. Unemployment Remains So High," this modest manufacturing recovery doesn't appear strong enough to move the needle on national unemployment). In his article, Crooks quoted Tom Waltermire, the head of an organization seeking to attract investment to the Cleveland area, on the advantages the Rust Belt still has as a manufacturing region:

The tremendous wealth generated during the 100-year heyday of manufacturing in this area – roughly from the 1870s to the 1970s – has created an infrastructure, including universities, that gives us the capability to conduct business and train people.

Watermire later offered this metaphor to Crooks about the current modest recovery in Rust Belt manufacturing, in the wake of its decades-long history of decline:

When the dinosaurs are dead, all the little mammals take over. And we’ve been doing that.

Mammals versus Dinosaurs?

The five publicly-traded companies mentioned in the article as ones that successfully conduct at least some of their manufacturing in the Rust Belt don't fit that metaphor too neatly: only one of them (A123 Systems, Inc.) was founded this century; two (Eaton Corporation and Caterpillar Inc.) were founded in the early 20th Century; and two (Timpken Co. and Lincoln Electric Holdings, Inc.) were founded in the late 19th Century). Let's take a closer look at them.

Five companies with factories in the Rust Belt

A123 Systems, Inc. (AONE) manufactures batteries for electric and hybrid cars. In his article, Ed Crooks wrote that A123 Systems "could represent the future of U.S. industry". Let's hope the future of U.S. industry looks better than A123 Systems, Inc.'s chart.

Short Screen shows an Altman Z-Score of 3.38 for AONE (scores below 1.81 are considered to be indications of financial distress, scores above 2.99 are considered to be indications of financial strength, and scores in between are considered a gray area).

Zacks Research ranks AONE as a "hold" over the next 1-to-3 months and gives it a "neutral" long term (6+ months) recommendation.

Eaton (NYSE:ETN) manufactures equipment used in electrical power, hydraulic, and fuel systems.

Short Screen shows an Altman Z-Score of 2.65 for Eaton Corporation.

Zacks Research ranks Eaton Corporation as a "buy" over the next 1-to-3 months and gives it an "outperform" long term (6+ months) recommendation.

Caterpillar, Inc. (NYSE:CAT) manufactures earth-moving equipment, as everyone who has seen its ubiquitous yellow bulldozers knows.

Short Screen shows an Altman Z-Score of 2.2 for Caterpillar, Inc.

Zacks Research ranks Eaton Corporation as a "strong buy" over the next 1-to-3 months and gives it a "neutral" long term (6+ months) recommendation.

Timken Co. (NYSE:TKR) manufactures ball bearings and specialized steel products.

Short Screen shows an Altman Z-Score of 3.34 for Timken Co.

Zacks Research ranks Timken Co. as a "strong buy" over the next 1-to-3 months and gives it an "outperform" long term (6+ months) recommendation.

Lincoln Electric Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ:LECO) manufactures cutting and welding products.

Short Screen shows an Altman Z-Score of 5.8 for Lincoln Electric Holdings, Inc.

Zacks Research ranks Lincoln Electric Holdings, Inc. as a "buy" over the next 1-to-3 months and gives it a "outperform" long term (6+ months) recommendation.

Source: Rating 5 Companies With Factories in the Rust Belt