By John Webster – Secretary – MCEDC Executive Committee
Recently I was in a meeting in which several industries from around the state, mostly non-agricultural, were represented. The majority indicated their business volumes compared with recent years were down, most were significantly down with some being flat. Certainly with news from the state regarding tax collections, it’s pretty evident that current economic times are a bit tenuous for nearly every industry and market segment as evidenced by the deepening cuts being made to tax supported entities. Hopeful seemed to be the optimistic view with cautious and concerned more the view when a little reality was mixed in. Given the realities of the agitating economy when asked – What are you doing? — the almost universal answer was —— “waiting”. Waiting for what? – “March” — why March? “because February will be over and we hope March will be better.” That doesn’t seem like a great business strategy but in many cases it has become the stark reality. Many businesses have reduced sales budgets, travel allowances, labor and other line items out of necessity to try and cope with the shortfalls they are facing. While the Mini-Cassia area is not immune to the current recession there are many areas in the state that have been harder hit by current economic conditions than here in our villages. Some would say that were lucky; others might attribute it to local agrarian economic strength yet I think it is really more.
Consider this –- going into the Great Depression Ford was the number one auto maker in the U.S. and General Motors (GM) was number two. Coming out of the depression General Motors was number one and Ford was number two. During the mid 1920′s Ford was selling 10 vehicles for every one sold by GM (Chevrolet). GM continued to expand its advertising budget and within six years not only caught up with Ford but took the lead in sales. If you think that was unusual, look at another example. CW Post had a decade head start and led the cereal industry for many years. That is…until the Great Depression hit. Post cut its ad budgets while Kellogg was ramping up its ad spending. By the end of the depression, Kellogg was number one. Both anecdotal and empirical evidence support the case that advertising and aggressive sales efforts were the main factor in the growth or downfall of companies during the Great Depression. To put it bluntly, the companies that demonstrated the most growth and that rang up the most sales were those that were aggressive and continued marketing with verve.
As a recent new member to the Mini-Cassia Economic Development Committee I can attest that those in our area who have been charged with economic development are working with G.M. and Kellogg like verve to insure we continue to grow and be a vital area. They have not rested, and are not waiting for March, April or any other month. While our ad budget is modest our effort is aggressive and more than ever we are finding that the seeds we planted months and years ago– infrastructure- marketing- planning etc.– are now bearing fruit despite difficult economics. At times it is a slow process but just drive around the area and think about how many of the larger companies in our area now were not here just 5-7 years ago. There is more growth on the near horizon that will contribute greatly to our area. So, spend just a few moments – look around and appreciate and reward the efforts of your village businesses with your business. After all, we’re all in this together and we will succeed or wither as a group.