Monday, July 6, 2009

Ditch water, summer readings, and creating your own economy

Anybody who knows me knows I am easily enthused. Let's face it, sometimes the little things, even the most trivial, matter. And I am excited as I pen this note on this beautiful July 4 weekend.

True, my mood was just brightened as I listened to the Brewers walking in the Cubs’ winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Sorry, fellow Domer/Brewer Craig Counsel. Them’s the breaks.

But my excitement today goes beyond another Cubbie win.

As Dutch might have said, “Well … we made it.” The worst is behind us. The economy has bottomed out. And not a moment too soon. So the economists tell us.

Monday's headline news affirms this: "U.S. service industries--from retailers to homebuilders--contracted last month at the slowest pace since September, a sign the worst recession in half a century is easing," said economists at the Institute for Supply Management.

Indeed, while many businesses and individuals are still struggling mightily, many manufacturers, suppliers and glass shops have gotten through the worst in decent shape. A few are even flourishing. All is not well--by a long shot--but the proverbial light appears to be flickering at the end of this very dark and dreary tunnel …

The first half of this year was akin to drinking ditch water on a hot summer day. It’s all we had, so we had to drink it; but it sure tasted awful. Hopefully, we've buried that ditch once and for all and that gorgeous, sparkling oasis we see in the distance isn’t a mirage.

As we soldier on, several interesting threats--aka, opportunities--remain.

GE CEO Jeff Immelt was quoted this week as saying that our country needs more manufacturing. We know how true that is; especially in the glass industry.

But China remains a major player in the manufacturing arena. A few months back, I was impressed when Ford Motor Co. announced that it now has the same labor cost structure as Toyota, at some $50 per hour. I was equally shocked to learn that Chinese firms can produce cars at $13 per hour of labor. So the competition is there.

But so is the opportunity.

Indeed, if Immelt’s challenge is to be met, we as a nation must make some important, tough decisions. We need policies that support job creation, without being protectionist. Now more than ever, our unified involvement is needed.

The Obama administration is already talking about a second stimulus package, based on last week's abysmal job creation numbers. What shape it takes, who knows? But we all know that government can only do so much. At some point, the private sector must step up and make the real difference.

In speaking with NGA board member Kevin McMahon last week, he indicated the local association meetings he attends are brimming with business people doing just that. These tough times are clearly prompting people to reach out and connect, network, and yes, create their own economy! It seems we’re all tired of drinking the ditch water.

We’re seeing this play out with GlassBuild America too. If early registrations are any indication, we could be on pace for a wonderful year! In fact--all things being equal--we’ve seen equivalent, if not higher, registrations for this fall’s show than we’ve seen over the previous two years.

You know what I’m going to say here …

It’s time to network, build your business and create your own economy! And there’s no better place to do that than at this fall's GlassBuild America expo. Register today to attend. I promise: We won’t be serving ditch water. After all, ditch water is for dogs; it’s time to drink from a better source.

And if you're looking for a book to add to your summer reading list, try "Create Your Own Economy: The Path to Prosperity in a Disordered World," by Tyler Cowen. Just released, this quick and timely read focuses on how you win by innovating, sharper thinking and working harder.

— By David Walker, Vice President of Association Services, National Glass Association

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