Friday, April 7, 2017

The US economy is finally on solid ground

Having the diverse customer base and abilities that we do at the plant, I feel that we have an incredible real-world understanding of the health of the economy that economists, statisticians and stock traders don’t and never could when crunching the numbers. Based on orders and potential investments, we see and feel what’s happening with the economy a half year before it becomes felt by the masses or reported by the news. 

The best example of that: Heading into the Great Recession we saw consumer trends spiraling downward quickly. In February of 2008, we started to batten down the hatches and make plans for the fall of that year, preparing for the worst. Our banker and many other business partners didn’t believe us and thought we were crazy. Everyone now knows what happened to the stock market and the economy as a whole that fall.

Since then, I’ve had confidence in our ability to see trends and predict the future. And, I must say: the US economy is finally -- after years of a painfully slow climb out of the recession -- on truly solid ground. Things are looking great. Businesses are investing. Consumers are buying. And, almost everyone is brimming with confidence.

Many of the Republican persuasion would say that it’s the much-anticipated Trump Bump. It’s not.

In the summer and fall of 2016 we saw a whole bunch of purchase orders from existing clients across multiple industries come across our desk. That wide-ranging deluge was highly-unusual as we saw orders coming from clients who typically don’t order in the second half of the year.

I posed to my dad the following observation: The rest of the economy will be brimming with vitality in early 2017 and everyone will be attributing that to whoever won the election, whether it was Clinton or Trump. Of course, we’re seeing that now and the Republicans are trumpeting Trump’s economic moxie.

So, does 2016’s turnaround that mean the economy we’re in now is the Obama legacy? Perhaps, but not all the way.

Something equally invigorating has happened since mid-January when Trump took office. Americans are becoming rabidly innovative and entrepreneurial like they used to be.

I like to judge the strength of those factors by how many requests for quotations (RFQs) we receive through our website from inventors, start-ups and others who are not our clients. In 2015 and 2016 you might as well say that RFQs received were negligible; we’re talking maybe one every quarter.

This year, the marketplace changed dramatically. We have been receiving RFQs at a clip or 1 or 2 a week, from all sorts of people and all sorts of end markets.

One could attribute that desire to invest in new molds and product lines to Trump’s philosophies about business and policy. People now feel comfortable taking a leap and risking it all now that he’s in charge.

So, what is it? Is this an Obama economy or a Trump economy? Obviously, both have contributed or will contribute to what I am seeing at the plant and what everyone has experienced recently and will experience in the coming months and, hopefully, years.

But, I think we as a society pin our hopes too much on what a President allegedly can or cannot do. The economy is bigger than one man. Even public policy is bigger than him, it takes a whole Congress to make laws and budgets.

Sure, Presidents, their belief systems, deal making abilities and cheerleading can contribute to economic confidence but in the whole scheme of things their impact is minimal. They aren’t the ones out there in the trenches. An economy is driven by the people.

It’s consumers who feel safe in their jobs and incomes that want to buy goods, go on vacations or invest in homes. It’s the business owners and entrepreneurs who feed off of that and produce the goods and services that people want, which in turn keeps people employed and drives further consumption. There are 319 million Americans driving this system. 

We are blessed to live in a country where those people are free to buy what they want and need and investors of capital are given the chance to satisfy that hunger.

And, we’re lucky that all of the factors point to an economy where that freedom is allowing hope and growth. The US is in, and heading further into, some pretty good times. Enjoy them while you can, savor this great free market of ours and all the rewards that come from it.      


From the 10 April 2017 Greater Niagara Newspapers 

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