SOM August 2009 Page 1 of 2 Signs along the interstate announce that projects are being funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. There are few workers in sight and those that are visible seem to be employees of our own Department of Highways. There are no small businesses setting up shop along the road or even in the cities and towns throughout the state with any of the so-called stimulus money. Word out of Washington is supposed to be reassuring us that the billions that have gone to financial institutions and the automotive industry are helping save the financial system. That is not the experience of most small business owners, the often-touted backbone of the American economy. We wonder out loud when the bailout monies are going to help us. It is amazing that the government is so quick to tell us what we owe, but has not shown us the respect to find ways to ease our immediate burden so we can add staff, buy new equipment and keep chasing the American Dream. No big signs have been hung outside of our offices indicating that we are beneficiaries of the bail out, yet we are told that we are essential to the survival of the American economy. Times are tough for small business owners. That’s not hyperbole. We are treading water. Creditors call sooner in the cycle. Anonymous voices, knowing nothing about what we do or how hard we work, demand immediate payment. There is increased pressure to pay with not-so-subtle suggestions that slow pay will hurt our credit ratings. I suppose this will have a negative impact on seeking financing that is not being offered to us anyway. No one is pounding on our doors with incentives for help with cash flow, refinancing of loans or even instructions on how to find any benefit from our taxes that are being given to the bigger players. So who is taking care of the little guy? Actually, we are! We are doing what we always have…being self-reliant. We are tightening our fiscal controls--really doing more with less. There are no bonuses, not under these conditions. Most of my fellow small business owners are not even able to give small raises to employees, those deserving souls who are working hard to keep these vital enterprises going. What we are doing, though, must not be overlooked: juggling dollars, making payroll, feeding families and paying for health insurance. One of my closest friends, a small business owner himself, shared that his company was at “DEFCON- 4” financially and ashamedly asked if we could send some of what we owed him. I wrote back that we were at the same critical juncture and would send money when we got money. Without any help from D.C., some funds were shifted and I did what I could to help. He actually made the effort to thank me and did what he could to keep the proverbial hounds at bay. This has been the way our country developed. This interdependence continues to be the key. Amazingly, we do not give up. We meet … complaining some, gaining comfort from our mutual stress and distress and in knowing that we are not alone. Then, wonderfully we start sharing--not money, but ideas. We make commitments and do our best to hold to them. We call each other and share good news. Independent and competitive as we are, SOM August 2009 Page 2 of 2 we seek out others. One new concept opens opportunities. Innovations without undue expenditures evolve. We hold onto our dreams and the belief we will prevail, still hoping that someone in Washington will really get it. Governor Manchin is trying to show the world that the Mountain State is not just wild and wonderful, but more so that we are resilient, self- reliant and just plain tough. This is not easy. Success is not for sissies. However, the big corporate guys might do what U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis has done: gone down into the mines and been filled with awe, observing what it takes day-to-day, as we make it work. It is what we deserve. A little help and a bit of encouragement will go a long way. *** The same interstate drive took me to the Greenbrier Resort, where I have been fortunate enough to be invited as a speaker for various events. On my first trip nearly over 25 years ago, I was intimidated by its grandeur and amazed by the way staff made you feel special. As years passed the glow faded, but now something miraculous has happened. I have never meet Jim Justice, but he seems to be a man on a great mission. His influence is already profoundly evident. Every employee with whom I talked is ebullient. They use the word “us” and talk about the resort in very personal terms with pride, desire and commitment. Everyone is an ambassador. They feel the new owner cares about them, the hotel and the community. There is new life in the venerable old hotel. This should be a symbol of what can be done when we believe in ourselves and are willing to make the investment of money and time. One thing I know: whatever it takes we need to open the state to the PGA next year. We need to make the trip, put up some of our hard earned bucks, fill the galleries and let the world see how great we are. This will be a small way to thank Mr. Justice and his staff. It will also demonstrate to others, such as the sponsors at Pete Dye and leaders like Phil Pfister, that we are thankful for their efforts to showcase West Virginia.
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