People who live on one coast or another often describe the area where my company is located as part of "flyover country"--that great big stretch of America that separates New York from California and requires long, yawn-inducing flights to cross. Even though I live in the "cultural outpost" of Kentucky, I enjoy my New York newspapers; people could probably even accuse me of harboring some "New York values." Just like The Donald, I love a good Shouts & Murmurs. (For those without New York values, that's a regular feature in The New Yorker.)
As a businessman and manufacturer with a growing company, however, what I don't have is a New York-centric view that makes me toss and turn as the market churns. There's rampant speculation that because the Dow is falling on Wall Street, the sky must be falling on Main Street, right?
First of all, most of the people talking about the markets right now don't actually understand the markets, because who really does? Certainly nobody with 60 seconds to explain it on-air. Secondly, most of the New York-based journalists doing the reporting have very little idea what goes on in businesses out here in "flyover country." They live and work cheek by jowl with analysts in the financial sector for whom the markets' every hiccup and whimper is grounds for consternation-- helicopter analysts. Dazzled by the illusory sums of money involved, these people come to believe the financial district is the center of the universe.
So what do they know about manufacturing? Not much, if anything. New York rents have driven all the factories out.
The facts are the financial markets have lost money. The Chinese currency has been devalued. What do those two things have to do with making products in this country? Or selling pharmaceuticals, or groceries? It makes it less expensive, that's what.
The drop in oil prices is being reported as if it's the end of the world--just like high oil prices were a couple years ago. But people who ride the New York subway to work don't see the benefit of lower prices the way those of us in flyover country do--and the airlines who fly over us. When gas is selling for less than $2 a gallon, companies pay less in transit costs, and employees pay less to get to and from work.
The United States entered a recession just a couple years after I started Big Ass Fans. We grew through that. We survived the so-called Great Recession, too. Of course, we're affected by financial markets in the long term, but not by the kind of volatility we're seeing now or even that we saw at that time. In finance, things can change quickly. But in manufacturing, we operate based on projections made months in advance. And when you do most of your business in America, like we do, there's a lot of protection from the turmoil going on overseas.
We make our products in a city that's a day's drive from the East Coast. Wall Street is a long way away, not just in miles but in mentality. We prefer to stay focused on Main Street.
To entrepreneurs starting out, I'd say, go west, east, north and south, young person, but stay in America until you get a very firm footing.
And I'd recommend flyover country. Believe it or not, there's a lot going on here.