Thursday, June 21, 2012
So High, You Can't Get Over It
I like to see my neighbors doing well.
I don't know anyone in this video, or anyone in Hancock, Maine, either, as far as I know; but there are only 1.3 million people in Maine, so they're all my neighbors, I guess.
I of course especially like to see people making stuff that other people can make other stuff out of. I could make all sorts of things out of the pine boards you see exiting the mill, and have, and likely will again. House-y sort of stuff. I'm fairly certain I could build a whole house and all the furniture in it out of nothing but 1x12 common pine boards, and it would still be better than whatever you're living in, no matter how elaborate. It's an infinitely useful material, and since a pine tree is a weed here, it's infinitely infinitely useful stuff -- the best kind.
The new owners are taking a chance, I'll bet, by re-opening this mill. They're betting on demand that is not currently in evidence. Maybe they think they'll prevail in a game of economic musical chairs instead of expanding capacity in preparation for an uptick in business. I hope not. People need jobs here, badly.
They took a $200,000 government giveaway to restart the shuttered lumber mill. The aroma of Gerry Ford and the redolent smell of Jimmy Carter is on the money; I'm old enough to remember when the Community Development Block Grant was introduced. Like everything to do with the government, everything but the government might go away, but I'll bet the CDBG never will.
The last owners "went away." The Crobb Box Company went out of business just last year. They'd been in business at that location since the 1940s. Think of all the economic tumult they'd endured since then, and what sort of economic Armageddon it would take to finally kill them off. Fans of ascribing everything bad that happens to a business solely to mismanagement or simple creative destruction should pause for a moment and consider that in 2008, the Small Business Administration gave Crobb Box the "Jeffrey H. Butland Family-Owned Small Business of the Year award." If Crobb Box was a disaster, why'd they get a government award ten minutes before they drove to the economic tollbooth with Sonny Corleone? It's the same government that gave Pleasant River money to re-open the place on top of the barely-room-temperature corpse of Crobb. Were they wrong then, or are they wrong now?
I'm pretty sure that's a rhetorical question. The answer is probably "yes." They have no idea what's going on, except to wreck it, blame someone for its demise, or take credit for it, depending on what week it is.
If Pleasant River makes a go of it (I hope they do), then they didn't need the money. If they're going to go the way of Crobb, then the grant money wouldn't save them. What would be useful is a return to some sort of transparency in the basic workings of the market. There's no transparency in much of anything anymore. It's surrounded by impenetrable walls; sometimes the walls are made of block grants.