What else doesn’t count anymore? PURCHASING DEPARTMENTS. The bottleneck of “purchasing” in big companies has become laughable to me as an outsider and to shop folks who make the money in manufacturing. The big gripe used to be “management,” but I don’t hear that as much now.
Today, the outcry is with purchasing departments in larger companies that slow everything down with paperwork and “justifications.” When you need 1,000 pounds of 12L15 round tomorrow, and Central Steel is happy to get it to you at a fair price so the company can make five grand on a hot job, and purchasing just can’t quite make it happen for a week, that is dumb, antiquated management. We see it all the time. It’s why small companies survive and often prosper, while bigger firms trip all over themselves.
It is also why private equity firms are eyeing even small shops with 20 or 30 employees if they have a “secret sauce,” few destructive fiefdoms, and a culture of cooperation. Unions have failed in America today because they rely on a culture of conflict. Enlightened management has reduced conflict in many cases, thus reducing the desire for institutionalizing conflict in a union setup.
American stock markets edged close to all-time highs yesterday. The mavens of the market, who I think really know less than nothing, think it is the prospect of the Fed lowering interest rates today. I doubt it. The Fed is generally rather irrelevant during these days of low inflation and tiny unemployment. The Fed is almost as irrelevant as the United Auto Workers who after 25 years still have not managed to unionize one auto plant in the South. They lost last week at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga again. This is at VW which has a Board thick with Union folks in Germany. The UAW now has 30% of the workers it used to have.
We are celebrating 10 years of growth in the economy according to the numbers. I am a bit skeptical of that personally. I have seen plenty of ups and downs in my work over the last 10 years, but the broad sweep has been upwards — unless you build single-family homes in places like Chicago.
The national press and Democrats running for President are up in arms about the “lack of affordable housing.” If you live in Seattle, Portland, or Manhattan, yes, you cannot find a cheap place to live except for an alley, but to generalize it for the rest of the country is absurd.
You want affordable, move to Bismarck or Oklahoma City or my neighborhood of beautiful homes on big lots, 35 minutes from downtown Chicago. You may have a neighbor with darker skin than you, but this is America, folks. Or you might prefer 900 square feet of quite-functional, newer space in Chicago and forgo a car. Affordable housing is in the eye of the beholder. I just heard of a couple from Seattle who made a study of the entire country as they prepared to move. They were both in jobs which required them to have access to a major airport. They were hoping to have kids. They wanted an area that was not homogeneous. They bought a home under $200,000 near me where they can live on one earner’s pay. Affordable housing is plentiful if you have flexibility and don’t accept the conventional wisdom of scarcity.
Where is the “economy” heading? It depends on what economy you identify with. My economy of people making stuff out of metal using creativity and grit looks quite promising, even as automotive companies deal with a young population increasingly bored with cars and trucks. There are plenty of more promising areas to gravitate into than pickups and SUVs.
Interest rates, inflation, the Fed, tariffs, the deficit, barely move the needle except to stock market junkies. U.S.-China competition will continue whether Donald Trump wins or loses in 2020.
Enjoy the opportunities. Ignore the noise.
Question: Does “Purchasing” get in your way?