Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I am not sure whether or not the present "Worst recession" since 1928 - 1932 is about over, was about as serious as the recession of 1982, or is a political ploy to create unrest allowing the big spenders to go forward with their socialist agenda. Here are a few observations from my perch in Houston.

My sister came down from Montana for a visit last week. She lives in Libby where no major manufacturers or miners now exist - closed by EPA. Yet, she is unable to hire anyone to help her doing house cleaning, much less hire anyone to work in the barn to keep the horses fed and groomed.

I took her to Fredericksburg TX slightly west of Austin. It is a tourist area. The roads going and coming were packed. The motel - a Best Western - was full Wednesday through Friday. The restaurants were packed with waiting lists as they are now in Houston.

While the girls were shopping I had the opportunity to visit with one of the upscale store owners in Fredericksburg. March of this year broke all records for the past ten years. I also had the same experience with a Coach store in Humble Texas. (I see where Coach and Nordstroms stock is at new highs today 4/21)

Most of the manufacturers I work with are doing OK. Yep, they could be doing a lot more volume, but are OK. One is working 60 hours per week! I have noted that it was de rigor in the stock market to post huge layoffs when a bad quarter was reported. Then, the stock would go up. Now I see quite the opposite as stock prices fall on reported layoffs. Usually I, as well as others it seems, find the workers that produce potential profits through adding value are laid off while the nonvalue adding "Heads" remain employed to continue to destroy the business while reaping their huge paychecks. In fact, it is my opinion that when huge layoffs occur it is because of lack of vision on the part of management. Those with this lack of vision and inability to steer the business around the economic potholes should go first.

Off the soap box and onward with observations.

I am now paying $1.99 for diesel fuel which is between Regular gas and Mid range gas. I did not see any of the oil field pumps working on my trip over and back from Fredericksburg. Normally there are 20-30 working along with drilling rigs.

The huge equipment auction company located at Beltway 8 and Hy 59 with over 50 acres of heavy earth moving equipment storage was completely full as thousands of pieces of heavy equipment and trucks packed the property in January, and now has only about 50 pieces are sitting in the middle of their yard. I have also noted that there are a large number of drive-out license tags on cars I see on the highways with some of the local car lots slimming inventories down.

Yes, there are other equipment repo yards that remain full, and these inventories will be worked down before new equipment will be required by the markets. This is one reason why CAT lost money

My daughter sold their house in Austin in 60 days. I thought the place was over priced in the 180's. My former neighbor across the street sold his house (45 days on the market) last month at a premium - he got his asking price. [ I assure you that trying to sell a house across the street from mine is a task unto itself!] The house just up the street from where I live sold at a huge premium to the market last weekend with less than a month on the market, and my daughter and son in law just purchased a house that was on the market for over a year. The house across the street now has a new roof, driveway, and new windows. The house down the street is putting in a huge pool complex, and three on the street have new roofs being added, probably due to the hurricane. I now see a lot of California cars in Houston and also in Dallas.

I had some day surgery yesterday in the Med center in Houston. If you have prostate problems, give me a call. Technology advances are just awesome! However, there are as many as 10 - what I call sky hook cranes - working in the Med Center with 10 - 30 story complexes going up. On the drive in to the Med Center, I saw a couple of 'street people' playing chess on an overturned barrel. So much for job searching.

The old "saw" is that furniture goes into recession about 6 months early and exits 4-6 months after the rest of the country is out of recession. Keep on keeping on - "This too shall pass!" Drop me a note and tell me what you are seeing. I'll pass it along.


  1. I've visited or talked to a half-dozen companies in Texas over the past six months, and most of them are doing well!

    The 1982 recession isn't in the media's memory. I remember I was working on manufacturer directories for Indiana and Ohio and it was a very difficult time for those folks.

    That was still fairly early in our manufacturing decline.

  2. George,

    I can take an educated guess why things are good in Texas. Your business tax seems to range between 0.5% and 1%, your personal income tax is even lower, and your gas & diesel tax is $0.20 a gallon. Your overall rank for tax burden is 7th best in the country.

    For crazy reasons I'm not sure I understand myself, not only am I starting a business calling on the automotive and furniture industries, but I'm doing it in North Carolina. Our business tax is 6.9%, our personal income tax is 7.75%, our gasoline tax varies with the price of gas (currently $0.266/gallon), not to mention increasing fees, ad valorem, property taxes, etc. Our overall rank for tax burden is 37th best (or worst). At least I was smart enough to move away from New York which is DFL.

    Maybe it's the barbecue...or maybe I should move to Texas...