Dean Barber

Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

Pondering Wealth and Circumstances

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2011 at 7:00 am

Last week, I wrote about leadership. This week, I write mostly about wealth.

Let me begin with what I heard earlier in the week from retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, who was a recipient of the Medal of Honor for gallantry in the Vietnam War and is now an analyst for MSNBC.

Col. Jacobs said in transitioning from the Army to a successful career on Wall Street, he noticed that most combat platoon sergeants in the Army exhibited better leadership skills than the titans that he was coming into contact with in the business world.

And while Wall Street execs are by and large a pretty wealthy bunch, the jobless rate of veterans of the most recent fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan was 12.1 percent in May, up from 10.6 percent a year earlier, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the same period, unemployment among all U.S. workers fell from 9.6 percent to 9.1 percent.

Theories abound on why recent veterans are having difficulty finding work. It could be that employers do not fully appreciate the ways that military skills might translate into nonmilitary jobs.

A recent Congressional report suggests the typical work experiences of recent veterans are best suited to the very industries which were particularly hard hit by the recession.

“Prior to the start of the recession, post-9/11 veterans were more likely than nonveterans to be employed in mining, construction, manufacturing, transportation and utilities, information, and professional and business services — all industries that experienced significant drops in employment during 2008-2009,” the report says. “These veterans also were less likely to be employed in education and health services, the only major sector that added jobs during the Great Recession.”

Wall Street Doing Good

Five of the big Wall Street banks — Bank of America, Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs — have joined forces with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the federal Labor Department, in launching a nationwide campaign to find jobs for veterans.

“What we’re doing is connecting employers with those veterans,” said Kevin Schmigel with the Chamber. The former Marine notes that most vets make great workers, saying, “90 percent of all military occupations are directly transferable to jobs in the private sector.”

It is difficult for me to praise Wall Street for a variety of reasons, but I have to admit that what these banks are doing is a good thing. These young veterans returning home from harm’s way, some with disabling wounds, have given much to their country. I think we owe them.

Back in November 2007, then Illinois Sen. Barrack Obama, on the campaign trail for the presidency, said this in Iowa.

“While some have prospered beyond imagination in this global economy, middle-class Americans — as well as those working hard to become middle-class — are seeing the American dream slip further and further away,” he said.

It was a central theme of the Obama campaign to take the White House.

Realizing a Growing Gap

Now we have known for some time of a growing income disparity in the United States. Economists believe this gap has been growing since the 1970s, although they are divided as to the reasons. But the numbers are becoming startling.

In 1975, the top 0.1 percent of earners garnered about 2.5 percent of the nation’s income, including capital gains, according to data collected by University of California economist Emmanuel Saez. By 2008, the top 0.1 percent of earners took in more than 10.4 percent of the personal income in the United States, including capital gains, and the top 1 percent took in more than 20 percent. You may want to read that again.

Research shows that a critical feature in the widening gap is the rise in pay for company executives. The single largest group of the highest-income earners, it turns out, are corporate executives. I only wish I could say I was surprised.

Defenders of executive pay have argued that today’s chief executives are worth more because, among other things, companies are larger and more complex. But I cannot help but be reminded of Col. Jacobson’s comments that most Army platoon sergeants have better leadership skills than corporate executives that he has met during his business career.

Now if you are a defender of capitalism, and I am, you have to come to terms with the fact that inequalities will always exist. It is the market that sets compensation levels. It is the market that leads workers into pursuits that are most productive to society. It is the market that rules, and if some CEO is going to be making $10 million a year, so be it. This is just the way it is.

But the growing income gap makes many if not most Americans, who are not wild-eyed socialists, uneasy. They may not recognize or agree to a remedy being offered by government, but they still view the income inequality as being excessive, almost obscene.

This notion has created an undercurrent – while millions struggle to find jobs in the wake of a brutal recession that the extremely wealthy might actually be restricting opportunities for everyone else. Of course, the 1 Percent Club would scoff at this as class envy, but I am not so sure.

The gap between the very wealthy and the huddled masses is widening not just in the United  States but throughout of the world, according to the latest annual Merrill Lynch-Capgemini World Wealth Report.

Even among millionaires, wealth grew more concentrated: The super-rich represented fewer than 1 percent of millionaires, yet held more than a third of that elite group’s wealth, according to the report.

Assets held by millionaires worldwide rose by 9.7 percent to a record $42.7 trillion — surpassing the previous high-water mark set in 2007 — while the ranks of people with at least $1 million of investable assets, excluding their primary residence, rose 8.3 percent to 10.9 million, the report found.

A Historic Sea Change in the Making

The ultra-rich — people with more than $30 million to invest — did even better than their regular-rich peers last year. Their ranks grew by 10 percent to 103,000, while their combined wealth rose 11.5 percent to roughly $15 trillion.

I cannot help but think that we are witnessing a historic sea change of wealth from North America and Europe to Asia. The ranks of millionaires in Asia for the first time surpassed Europe and in a few years are expected to overtake the United States, according to the Merrill Lynch-Capgemini report.

Powered by fast-growing China and India, the Asia-Pacific region’s millionaire ranks rose 10 percent to 3.3 million, second only to the 3.4 million residing in North America and inching ahead of Europe, which had 3.1 million.

Asia’s combined wealth, up 12 percent to $10.8 trillion last year, surpassed Europe and threatens to overtake the United  States and Canada, where wealth rose 9 percent to $11.6 trillion.

What all this means is that the rich really are getting richer while the ranks of millionaires continue to grow.

Some Final Thoughts

So how do I feel about wealth concentration becoming more concentrated? Well, I will admit that I am a bit torn on this subject. I want the lure of becoming a millionaire to remain a steadfast goal for any and all who want to take that journey.

I want little Johnny or little Mary, coming up from humble circumstances, to live in a country whereby they, too, can through hard work and determination, join the ranks of the elite rich. Holding that promise preserves capitalism, which for better or for worse, is still the best system we have. In that regard, capitalism is not unsimilar to democracy. It’s messy. It’s hurtful, but there is no better alternative.

A soldier coming home from Afghanistan struggles to find work, while a hedge fund manager on Wall Street pockets millions for ethereal transactions that result in nothing real being made, with the exception of wealth.

Yes, sometimes I ponder on these things. And then I have to get back to work.

Dean Barber is the president/CEO of Barber Business Advisors, LLC, a site selection and economic development consulting firm in Red Oak, Texas — He can be reached at


Pain, Prayer and Pepsid: On Leadership

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2011 at 7:00 am

People are consumed with leadership. They read (and write) books about it. They attend classes and seminars about it. They watch movies and documentaries about it, all romancing leaders and leadership.

Everybody and their brother wants to be a leader. I believe this is so, in part, because most people yearn for at least a modicum of recognition that they are doing something meaningful on this planet. Leaders often get such recognition. Some will take it further, purposely seeking fame, not content with just peer approval.

And then there are those poor souls who have delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence. They are megalomaniacs, misguided pathological egotists who are absolutely convinced that they are more important than me.

Now rest assured that I will not seek political office, nor become a television evangelist, nor even the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. For now, I am quite content running my site selection consulting business, Barber Business Advisors, LLC.

Reading and Watching

And while I have no desire to write in detail on what constitutes leadership, I do have some thoughts which occurred to me while reading Civil War history and watching the the NBA championship series. First, basketball and then war.

I believe the Dallas Mavericks prevailed over the Miami Heat for three reasons:

  1. They (the ball players) played as a team, which is a huge accomplishment in itself.
  2. They were well prepared and agreed on a common goal, which may seem obvious but is always easier said than done.
  3. They had good leadership, which molds and influences points one and two.

Notice that I did not mention stars. It’s good to have them, mind you, so long as they are not disruptive to the team. Stars do things that can awe and inspire us. And most stars become stars through hard work and preparation, and for that they should be credited.

But for teams to prevail, it’s usually not so important as to how a particular star performs so much as how well a team congeals and plays together. That’s when real magic happens.

So I have to think that Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle deserves most of the accolades. He set the tone, the pace, the mission for his team to best the Miami Heat, which on paper should have won. I don’t know about you, but I like that, and it has nothing to do with me living in Texas. Well, maybe a little bit.

Setting the Tone, Pace and Mission

In sports, business and war, (the Japanese say business is war) leaders to set the tone, the pace, and the mission. The most effective CEOs, coaches, and generals are typically driven, clear-headed people, not necessarily the smartest, but they know what has to be done and set their sights on it in an organizational way that motivates others.

As a Civil War buff, it is apparent to me how leadership shapes events. Allow me to set the stage. It is May 1864 in war-torn Virginia. Two opposing generals, both with a winning tradition, face each other for the first time.

Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee is already a legend. His Army of Northern Virginia has a stirring history of whipping superior forces, largely because Lee is a very daring, skilled and creative battlefield tactician. In fact, he is a gambler with an uncommon ability to get into the head of his opposing counterpart and anticipate the next moves. Lee’s men adore him.

Along comes U.S. Grant, an uncommonly common man who has failed at just about everything in life with the exception of one thing — soldiering. Following a string of victories in the West, he finds himself commanding the Army of the Potomac and facing Lee. Grant soon learns to his dismay that his officer corps is intimidated by Lee, largely because they have been on the receiving end of Lee’s lethal brilliance.

But Grant is not intimidated. A slugfest soon ensues in which both armies are ensnarled in a confused death’s grip in tangled, jungle-like conditions. At the end of three days of savage fighting, the two ravaged and bloodied sides part, with the confederates having a slight tactical advantage by retaining the battlefield. The Battle of the Wilderness is finally over.

Marching away from hell, the rank and file in an exhausted Army of Potomac expected to turn north, cross the Rapidan River to rest, recuperate and plot anew. This was what the army had always done after such a massive bloodletting.

But it didn’t happen. Instead, at a crucial crossroads, Grant turned his army right and headed south. At that moment, virtually every private in Grant’s army knew that a new kind of commanding general was in charge, one who was going to fight. And, indeed, that is what happened, all the way to Appomattox Courthouse less than a year later, where Lee and Grant would meet in a farmhouse to discuss surrender terms. Lee, the aristocrat, would be resplendent in a new uniform. Grant would arrive in mud spattered boots and wearing a private’s sack coat.

Leaders Blunder

Why do I recount this? What is my point? Well, leadership matters. Grant and Lee were both superb generals, albeit very different kind of men. But keep in mind that during the course of their military careers, both men made some horrible military blunders. For Lee, it was Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg; For Grant, it was a place called Cold Harbor. Both were frontal assaults that cost thousands of lives. But despite these mistakes, Grant and Lee are recognized as great field generals.

The point is that even the best leaders make mistakes, even bad mistakes, but they recover. Leaders will take calculated risks. For the entrepreneur, it takes courage and a leap of faith to start a new business, prerequisites that many people simply cannot stomach. (Prayer and Pepsid seem to help me with my new business.) Risk taking by its very nature implies a willingness to fail. You only hope that you can somehow learn from the pain.

And while Lee and Grant became quite accomplished at maneuvering and using their respective killing machines, I think it is a safe bet that neither read self-help books on how to be leaders. No doubt, their West Point education may have proved somewhat useful, but I submit they learned their deadly craft mostly from trial and error, which is ultimately the best teacher.

In his memoirs, finished literally on his deathbed, Grant said the turning point for him as a leader came during a fight which never happened. He was leading a force to attack a confederate encampment and expected that a battle would result. He said he was very scared. And then he discovered that the confederates had pulled out. Grant said he realized the confederate commander “had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him,” which gave Grant great insight as to what he must do.

Lee never wrote memoirs, but he made some telling remarks during the course of the war. He always referred to the federals as “those people” and never demonized them. In the aftermath of the battle of Fredericksburg where his troops literally annihilated charge after charge of union troops, he said, It is good that war is so terrible, else we would grow too fond of it.”

Probably Lee’s best moment came right before the end, when he rejected the idea, proposed by some of his generals, to disband his army and wage a guerrilla war from the Blue Ridge Mountains, which conceivably could have drawn out the war for years longer. Lee recognized the need to end the killing and then called for reconciliation between the North and South.

Looking at Lee and Grant, I see that true leadership is often a very lonely, even agonizing endeavor. It means sacrificing oneself for something greater and suffering the consequences for both success and failure, as each have their costs.

Business leaders today could learn from these two men. It’s not about achieving fortune and wallowing in conspicuous consumption, although a few CEOs seem to revel in that. Rather, it is about giving yourself over and rallying people to achieve what might normally be the unachievable. And even failing along the way.

Now you can go read your self-help books on how to be a leader. Or you can bleed and become one.

Dean Barber is the president/CEO of Barber Business Advisors, LLC, a site selection and economic development consulting firm in Red Oak, Texas —   He can be reached at

How the Governor Got His Groove On

In Uncategorized on June 12, 2011 at 9:39 am

We are not machines. As people, we have emotional responses to things. Studies show that there will always be an emotional aspect to decision making. We simply cannot help it. It’s what makes us human.

For companies that are considering expanding operations or building a new presence in a location, this somewhat fuzzy concept of quality of life usually enters the picture on some level.

From Miami to Anchorage, from San Diego to Boston, from Gnaw Bone, Indiana, to Possum Kingdom, Texas, everyone lives in a community that can rightfully claim a quality of life. Mind you, it might not be your idea of quality of life, but nonetheless it is there.

And again this jello-in-the-fingers concept of what constitutes quality of life plays into the decision making process for companies that are looking beyond the hard numbers on return on investment. Factors may include the quality of local schools, the cost and availability of quality housing, crime rates, recreational opportunities, and the proximity of restaurants, retail, art galleries and museums.

Quality of life has a huge impact on overall employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. It is now an accepted truism that companies perform better when their employees are happy in the workplace. And that translates to the bottom line on profitability.

A true horror story: I was once in what will be an unnamed town in which the mayor, the company client and I were doing a community tour. The mayor, thinking that he was speaking well about his community’s quality of life, said this: “You know, we have very little crime in our town. That’s because we have so few blacks.”

At that very moment, Mayor Dumbass killed any chance that his town would be considered for an automotive supplier manufacturing project that would create hundreds of new jobs. The company executive and I cut the visit short, per the request of the client. Even if the mayor’s point of view did not represent most people living there, we were not sticking around to find out.

This past week, I spent several days in Biloxi as the guest of Team Mississippi, a consortium comprised of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA), Entergy, Mississippi Power, TVA and the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi.

There I saw firsthand how Mississippi is promoting a quality of life aspect, the state’s music heritage, as a tool for economic development. As many governors do, Gov. Haley Barbour has focused on long-term economic success by supporting and recruiting innovative manufacturing companies. They include PACCAR, Severstal, GE Aviation, Northrop Grumman, Nissan and Toyota Motor Co., which will open their latest North American plant near Tupelo this year.

But Gov. Barbour and Team Mississippi are  promoting Mississippi as the “Birthplace of America’s Music” through initiatives like the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola; the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, and the Mississippi Blues Trail with 130 sites statewide.

Keep in mind that Mississippi is the home of blues greats Son House, Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Charley Patton, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, and Willie “Pinetop” Perkins, who died March 21 at the age of 97. In 2010, Perkins received a GRAMMY for his final release, “Joined at the Hip,” with Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.

Attending the Fifth Annual Mississippi GRAMMY Legacy Celebration in Biloxi this past Tuesday, Gov. Barbour posed for photographs with Mississippi musicians who would  perform onstage later that night. Indeed, by all appearance, the governor got his groove on. In doing so, he paid homage to the incredible music heritage of his state.

“If you look at the blues, everybody understands and agrees it was created in the Missisippi Delta. Elvis Presley, the king of rock ‘n’ roll. Jimmie Rodgers, the king of country music, was from Meridian,  Mississippi,” Gov. Barbour said.

But the governor knows that the music represents more than culture and history — it is also an important part of Mississippi’s economy.

“Music is not simply a part of our cultural heritage. Music is an important and very powerful economic engine in our state — one with a global reach,” Barbour said. “Music in all forms is one of our most vital exports.”

It wasn’t always so. Mary Beth Wilkerson, director of the Division of Tourism at MDA, said it has only been over the past eight years that economic developers have come to realize that the state’s culture is “a strong, strong draw for traditional economic development.”

That hit home for former MDA Executive Gray Swoope while attending the 2008 opening of the B.B. King Museum.

“I was surprised to note that representatives from the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) were there covering the event,” Swoope would later write. “The BBC’s presence proves the fact that a large market exists of people who enjoy the blues and who want to learn more. It also underscored the fact that we, as Mississippians, often take for granted the very things that others, particularly international audiences, value.”

Today, when MDA goes to Europe on tourism and industry recruiting trips, blues musicians will often be a part of the contingent, Ms. Wilkerson said.

Mississippi, of course, is not the only state to recognize the role of the arts as a driver of economic growth. In the Lone Star State, a report published in January and commissioned by the Texas Cultural Trust and the Texas Commission on the Arts,
said creative industries — from advertising to dance companies to book publishing — generate $4.5 billion per year in economic activity. You read that right — $4.5 billion.

Across Texas, the creative sector employs nearly 700,000 people, approaching the number of people who live in Fort Worth. By and large, these jobs are lucrative. In 2009, the average annual wage for people employed in the state’s creative sector was about $70,000, compared with $39,000 in other industries.

And like in Mississippi, we’re not necessarily talking big city life.

In Clifton, Texas, population 3,795, the Bosque Arts  Center injected economic vitality into a once-sleepy downtown. Now there are art galleries and restaurants among thriving businesses, and some evenings it is hard to find a parking space downtown. In 2009, local cultural arts tourism spending generated $2.4 million in economic activity.

Because the perception of the arts is typically in terms of cultural and not economic value, the best argument for getting local government support of art initiatives is by showing the direct and indirect contributions to the local economy, said Chris Beacham,
project manager for Regional Technology Strategies, Inc., based in Carrboro, N.C.

And because art often generates and creates cohesiveness to a community, it thereby builds upon itself by attracting a creative class of people, he said.

“If you are looking to keep or gain a specific demographic, these younger, well-trained, creative types, then you really need to have a strong creative economy,” said Beacham, who is also a painter.

Companies taking a longer view on employee satisfaction, particularly companies that need a creative class of employees, take note of such things. Corporate decision makers on site selection matters have to balance many factors beyond the costs of operations.

Whether they like it or not, they are betting on future success, which entails the human element and an emotional aspect of the decision making process. Would I want to live here? Could I live here? Where is the nearest juke joint?

Mississippi understands the emotional aspect of decision making, and for that reason, MDA shows more than buildings and sites to corporate site selectors. Whenever possible, MDA seeks to “immerse” their visiting guests into the culture of the state and in particular the music.

“It’s who we are,” said Ms. Wilkerson. “It speaks to our authenticity.”

Dean Barber is the president/CEO of Barber Business Advisors, LLC, a site selection and economic development consulting firm in Red Oak, Texas —   He can be reached at


Will the Future Thomas Edison Please Stand Up

In Uncategorized on June 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

As I write this latest blog, I feel whipped and yet relieved. While my principle business is site selection consulting, I remain an old newspaper reporter at heart, having spent 20 years in that gut-wrenching but satisfying business.

I have no regrets about having been an investigative reporter and later business editor; it’s just that I have moved on. What that means is twofold: I like to dig for information, and I seldom take anything at face value. Both aspects bode well for site selection consulting, which I would submit is a form of investigative reporting.

So the newspaperman in me has left me skeptical. People say stuff all the time, and when there is money involved, watch out.

Now I told you that I feel whipped and relieved. That’s because I have just completed a story for Site Selection magazine, in which I learned the story behind the story about a so-called miracle material being touted in the nanotechnology world. What I learned was that there is this material that offers a significant potential for commercial application. But I also found a whole lot of hype.

Hype, Hoopla and Hucksterism

Now one could reasonably argue that hype has been a byproduct of nanotechnology and biotechnology, but the truth remains that both fields have generated new companies, new jobs and new tangible products. And all of that is very good.

I am not going to preempt the magazine story. But I will tell you this: Business is not the only business guilty of hype, hoopla and hucksterism. Academia does it, too, especially professors who are seeking grant money to fund their research projects. Believe it or not, sometimes these PhDs attached to major universities will make promises that would rival any outlandish claims posed in the business world. When they do so, they literally become spin doctors. Indeed, some have all the attributes of being fine economic developers.

But research is a good thing, the key to our nation’s future prosperity. I am absolutely convinced of that. Most cutting edge research takes place at the university level. Typically, major corporations sink money into research only after university research shows them a path to making a viable commercial product.

In the course of doing my work on the story, I stumbled on something else that caught my eye. Somewhat to my surprise, nearly everyone I talked to on the subject manner was not born in this country. I spoke to PhDs who were Chinese, Russian, and Indian and from a smattering of other countries. Now please understand that I am not questioning their loyalty or whether they pose a security risk to our nation. I am not going there.

I believe these brainy foreign-born scientists are here because they want to be here. They are doing vital work, and I only wish we had more of them here doing basic research. More often than not, they make great U.S. citizens.

Where Are Our Kids?

What concerns me is why I wasn’t interviewing natural born American scientists when working on the story. Why was that? When I go to the web page of a physics department for a major university and look at a photo of the professor and his students, and the overwhelming majority appeared to be of Chinese origin, I have to wonder why.

Again, this is not Chinese bashing. If anything, this is American bashing to this extent:  I am simply asking where are the American kids?

One nanotechnology industry exec that I mentioned this to pooh-poohed my concerns. It is true that our best and brightest have not been delving into science deeply, but pursuing careers in business, like finance, IT and software, places where they thought they could make money. They’ll be back, the exec predicted. The kids will come back and be our future professors of science. Just you wait, he said.

Well, I hope he is right, but I’m no so sure. There might be an underlying reason why American kids rank so low in math and science when compared to the rest of the world. Perhaps they think the subject matter is too tough or too boring or just doesn’t offer a backdrop of creativity.

A 2006 University  of Florida study suggests that Chinese children want to learn practical knowledge in an organized environment, while their American counterparts prefer a more imaginative school environment. That lends support to some stories that I have heard from U.S. businessmen who have done extensive business in China. They have told me that the Chinese tend to lack creativity and imagination that is sometimes absolutely needed – that they do things strictly by the book and by the numbers.

A Nation of Curious Tinkerers

The individualist culture of the United States and the comparatively collectivist culture of China probably influence learning styles, said Thomas Oakland, a professor of educational psychology at UF’s College of Education. Chinese classrooms tend to be more structured and authoritarian than classrooms in the West, while American schools try to encourage critical thinking skills and student interaction with teachers.

But despite the fact that it would appear that we are falling behind on the science front, I would suggest that our individualist American culture has a peculiar knack for coming up with new things. We are historically a nation of curious tinkerers and we best continue that tradition.

And while we may have to resort to some snake-oil salesmanship on occasion to fund our projects and ideas, we remain a Mecca for free-wheeling science. There is a reason why these Chinese, Indian, and Russian scientists want to come and work and live in the United States, and it’s not just money. I would suggest it is our creative, free-wheeling environment which spawns innovation. Frankly, it is our only hope to compete.

Say It Aint So

I do not want to come off like Chicken Little by declaring the sky is falling, but I am starting to wonder if we might be heading into a double-dip recession. Gosh, I even hate to mention that. I don’t think it will happen, but certainly growth is slowing.

U.S. employment rose by 54,000 in May, far less than expected, to record its weakest reading since September, while the jobless rate rose to 9.1 percent. And while this blog is not devoted to politics, it looks more and more to me that President Obama is vulnerable in 2012. My take is that the unemployment rate has to be below 8 percent for the Democrats to retain the White House.

The horror story with housing continues. Home prices are still falling and have reached their lowest level since 2002 in March. Nearly one out of four American homeowners is underwater on their mortgages.

Higher gas prices have left less money for consumers to spend on other purchases. And average wages aren’t even keeping up with inflation. As a result, consumer spending, which fuels about 70 percent of the economy, is sluggish.

More people entered the work force in May. But most of the new entrants couldn’t find work. That pushed the unemployment rate up from 9.0 percent in April. The number of unemployed rose to 13.9 million.

Manufacturers cut 5,000 jobs in May, the first job loss in that sector in seven months. That included a drop of 3,400 jobs in the auto sector. Car makers are cutting back on production because they are having a difficult time purchasing parts. Many auto parts are manufactured in Japan and the March 11 earthquake in that country has disrupted supply chains.

These dismal numbers all point to a slowing economy, although some analysts believe the data indicates the recovery has hit a soft patch.

Let us hope it is just a soft patch.

Dean Barber is the president/CEO of Barber Business  Advisors, LLC, a site selection and economic development consulting firm in Red Oak, Texas —