March 06, 2013 - For the past few years I have heard from folks in our office, from our readers and from our business partners that times are hard.
I'll admit, it is hard to dispute that conclusion when using logical equations with variables of higher energy costs, higher food costs, fewer automotive-related jobs, more home foreclosures and charitable need.
Were I not an optimist (small "o"), I would say things are mighty dim. Were I pessimistic, I would cry, "woe is me," whilst crying in my beer.
But, things are changing. I think another set of folks are tired of waiting for good stuff to happen to them. Rather than wait, they're making their own good stuff happen. (Children, read: hard work.)
However, I also see pulling in and out of area driveways many newer vehicles, many of these the expensive to own and operate kind. I also see plenty of cars in the parking lots of area restaurants and grocery stores.
I see new businesses opening in our communities. So, I draw the conclusion, using my own logic, that things ain't as bad as they seem. Things may be tighter, but folks in these parts are still eating, driving, buying, getting haircuts, fake and bake tans and medical attention.
We publish Total Market Coverage (TMC) products in the immediate area (the Ad-Vertiser in Oxford, Orion and Addison; the Penny Stretcher in the Clarkston area and The Citizen in the Ortonville-Goodrich area).
Since the lowest point of the last five years, I think more folks are moving back into the community. Increase the press run, Whitey!
The thing is, I guess, locally at least the economy is moving. I don't know about up north or down south, but right here, things are still going forward. And, if the rest of the state is going south, then us moving forward is really a good thing.
What can we do to keep the ball rolling? For one, don't give up. Something else we can do is shop and use local services.
Support businesses that pay local taxes (and donate to local charities and to every student endeavor that comes their way). Keep the cash in the community. Support your neighbor and his/her business.
In an old issue of BusinessWeek's Small Biz magazine, Deputy Editor Susan Price wrote an editorial that caught my eye.
Finding Opportunity In Troubled Times
"With rising energy costs, falling housing prices, a jittery stock market and an anemic dollar, the economy certainly has seen better days," she wrote.
"Well before economists and the media started whispering about a possible recession, entrepreneurs were on it. That's not to say they shuttered their warehouses or crossed their fingers and hoped the storm would quickly pass.
By nature, entrepreneurs seek opportunities, no matter the climate . . ."
As I read Susan's words, another thought that had been bangin' around in my Neanderthal-like noggin was starting to take solid form.
I picked up my Neanderthal-draggin' knuckles from the floor, dusted off the salt-residue brought in from the driveway and wrote a note to myself. (Urggrl, Neanderthal Don need help remembering grumphfl.)
"Rugged individualism. Entrepreneurial spirit of thems in Michigan 100 years ago put us on the world's map. Have we too long been good, little workers? Has living through generations of being comfortable made us expect handouts?
Dad said, 'it's a big, bad bear out there and nobody owes you anything.'" And then I scribbled, "when you are given lemons, make lemonade. Is that too risky?"
Or, maybe each of us can wake-up our own inner entrepreneur. Maybe if homes are not selling, those with homes for sale can lease or rent rooms.
Maybe realtors can offer services for fighting property taxes at local boards of review (providing comparative home values for property owners to show why their taxes should not go up). Look for opportunity then act.
Got any ideas, let us know. Know of a biz start up, let us know. E-mail me, Don@ShermanPublications.org
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: email@example.com