Dean Barber

Archive for August, 2011|Monthly archive page

Breaking the Rules with Steve

In Uncategorized on August 28, 2011 at 9:40 am

As a business consultant, I have to think that it is wise to stay abreast of not only corporate news and machinations, but also develop an understanding of corporate theories and philosophies.

If you know what motivates your customers, you will likely be able to serve them better. So I find myself drawn to not only what a client does and how and why they do it, but also the underlying corporate culture behind it all.

Robert Greenleaf (1904-1990) spent 40 years researching management, and concluded that the power-centered authoritarian leadership style so prominent in corporate America was not working, or at least not working well.

Greenleaf retired from AT&T in 1964 to found the Center for Applied Ethics. In 1970, he published an essay entitled “The Servant As Leader,” which was expanded into a book , which is perhaps one of the most influential management texts yet written. The Servant Leadership movement was born.

Greenleaf postulated that the needs of followers are holy and legitimate, and the leaders use of power arises from the consent of the followers. Greenleaf was very focused on action and ends, and he held a Sabbath attitude about organizational life.

Like Christ, who said “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath,” Greenleaf believed that institutions should serve people.

Greenleaf’s philosophy has been largely embraced by Silicon Valley, the nation’s leading hub for high-tech innovation and accounting for  one-third of all of the venture capital investment in the United States.

Google Inc.’s Mountain View campus is famous for its perks, including in-house masseuses, roller-hockey games, and a cafeteria where employees gobble gourmet food for free. Google’s engineers choose which projects they work on and whom they work with. And they are encouraged to allot 20 percent of their work week to pursuing their own software ideas.

A Throwback to the Past

Not so at nearby Apple, where the corporate culture is more a relic of the industrial revolution than a different-thinking business of the future. Fear and intimidation has ruled under the auspices of Steve Jobs, who announced his retirement this past week as the CEO. Business and tech pundits have showered him with superlatives: Innovator. Visionary. Genius.

“Steve Jobs is one of the great innovators in the history of modern capitalism,” New York Times columnist Joe Nocera told CNN’s Piers Morgan Wednesday night.

“Steve Jobs is the most successful CEO in the U.S. of the last 25 years,” said Google Chairman Eric Schmidt. “He uniquely combined an artist’s touch and an engineer’s vision to build an extraordinary company, one of the greatest American leaders in history.”

Jobs rejected the standard touchy-feely philosophies of Silicon Valley, insisting that his company create must-have products the old-fashioned way: by locking the doors and sweating and bleeding until something emerges perfectly formed.

Jobs is known as a notorious micromanager. No product goes out the door without meeting his exacting standards, which are said to cover such esoteric details as the number of screws on the bottom of a laptop. Apple’s first CEO Michael Scott said Jobs spent weeks contemplating how rounded the edges of the Apple II case should be.

Jobs created Apple twice. The first time was when he founded the company with a high school buddy in a garage in 1976. The second time was after he returned to the company in 1997, after being fired in 1985. He is now credited with saving the company, which vies with Exxon Mobil as the most valuable publicly traded corporation in the United States.

In his second stint as CEO, Jobs slashed unprofitable projects and narrowed the company’s focus.

An Endearing Story

Leander Kahney, author of the book “Inside Steve’s Brain,” tells the story of Ed Niehaus, who was wooed and hired by Jobs to do PR for resurgent Apple. Neihaus told Kahney about an elevator ride that everyone in Silicon Valley has heard about. It was soon after Jobs’ triumphant and he was axing product plans — and people.

Niehaus recalled: “I once rode down an elevator, not that many floors. We got in the elevator and the next floor a young woman got in, and I could see her go, ‘oops, wrong elevator.’ And Steve said, ‘Hi, who are you?’ and introduces himself to her — ‘I’m Steve Jobs’ and turned on the charm and said, ‘What do you do?’ and all this sort of thing. And the door of the elevator opens at the bottom, and he says, ‘We are not going to need you.’ And we walk away.”

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And Now A Word from Our Sponsors: Eat at Joes

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And Now Back  to Our Program, Already in  Progress.

Being chewed up and spat out by Jobs was a common experience for many Apple employees who came into contact with him. Even the most favored employee could find themselves on the receiving end of a tirade. Kahney reports that insiders have a term for it: the “hero-shithead roller coaster.”

Said Edward Eigerman, a former Apple engineer, “More than anywhere else I’ve worked before or since, there’s a lot of concern about being fired.”

But Jobs’ autocracy is balanced by his charisma. Andy Hertzfeld, lead designer of the original Macintosh OS, told Kahney that Jobs imbued him and his coworkers with “messianic zeal.” And because Jobs’ approval is so hard to win, Apple staffers work hard to please him.

A Different OS

There are also stories of Jobs putting his feet on the table in meetings and parking in the handicapped parking space in front of corporate headquarters, often taking up two spaces. The rules simply did not apply to Jobs.

“Steve proves that it’s OK to be an asshole,” says Guy Kawasaki, Apple’s former chief evangelist. “I can’t relate to the way he does things, but it’s not his problem. It’s mine. He just has a different OS.”

But despite his methods, Jobs has demonstrated an ability to inspire God-like devotion among Apple customers. The iconic iPod, the iPhone and the iPad are the creation of a man known for his near-obsessive control of the product development process.

Jobs made some rather revealing statements to Stanford University graduates during a commencement speech in 2005. He credited rejection, failure and bad fate for his ultimate success.

“I’m pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn’t been fired from Apple,” he told Stanford graduates. “It was awful-tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick.”

Jobs has had a liver transplant and a rare form of pancreatic cancer. He has been on leave three times since 2004. He said his mortality has been a key driver for his minimalist philosophy.

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” Jobs told the Stanford graduates. “Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

And while Steve Jobs may be operating from a different operating system, he is traditional in the sense that he is grounded in hope, although he is not a Christian but rather a Buddhist.

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,” he told the Stanford graduates. “You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Parting Words from Jack Layton

On another matter, I must call your attention to the death this past week of Jack Layton, the head of Canada’s New Democratic Party. He was voted the politician Canadians would most prefer to have a beer with. Two days before he died of cancer, Layton wrote a beautiful parting letter. He closed with these words:

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

Need a partner in results-oriented site selection? Contact me, Dean Barber, at 972-890-3733 or at dbarber@barberadvisors.com  Barber Business Advisors, LLC is a site selection and economic development consulting firm in Red Oak, Texas. Please visit our website at www.barberadvisors.com

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So What Does This All Mean?

In Uncategorized on August 21, 2011 at 9:00 am

That is a very good question, one that I struggle with every day and for which is the very purpose of this blog. I certainly don’t have all the answers (I probably don’t know most of the questions), but I think it is worth trying to assess what is happening around us. In business as in life, it pays to know.

So what does this all mean? My conclusions, based on my very sophisticated computational research and a rattle of the bones (a little voodoo economics), would indicate that we have a tough haul ahead.  The world economy, not just ours, is slowing, characterized by weak demand, anemic growth, burdensome debt and fear.

And it’s fear that keeps us caught in this downward cycle. Fear keeps us from investing in the stock market, from buying or building a new home, from building a new factory or expanding an existing one. It is fear that is prevents business from hiring additional workers.

From corporate board rooms in New York and Tokyo to shotgun houses in poor neighborhoods in Birmingham, fear and loathing runs deep.  People are plumb scared.

Cash is king for those who have it. They are hoarding it, sitting on it and trying to ride out what has been a very long storm.  Meanwhile, a dark cloud of poverty descends on millions in this country and around the world.

Two very unpleasant words come to mind for what is happening – wealth destruction.

Hunkering Down

More than $6 trillion has been erased from the value of global equities this month on signs of a slowing U.S. economy and speculation that European banks lack sufficient capital. Regulators from U.S., Europe and Asia said the market turmoil posed further risks to growth, after reports show that American jobless claims rose and manufacturing is shrinking.

That is not to say that certain businesses or business sectors cannot thrive in a weak economy. Certainly, some will, even if the world does lapse back into another recession. There will always be exceptions to the rule, as some business people learn how to fill a niche in good times and bad.

But for many of us, including the most business savvy, this is a time to hunker down and even count your blessings, as we instinctively know that this too shall pass.

When? Well, the bones tell me that it might be a few years before we see sizeable growth in the economy again. I said might, because I have to read and interpret how my chicken bones and pebbles lie on the blanket after tossing them.  They don’t teach you this at the Wharton School of Business.

But I think we are witnessing historic times, when the gulf between the rich and poor ever widens. If and when you see headlines of man biting dog, lock your doors, as a fury may break across the landscape. I hope I am wrong.

Are Locusts Next?

This sounds all rather apocalyptic, and for that I apologize.  I really am an upbeat fellow, but just not upbeat on business conditions anytime soon.  Keep in mind that my views may be colored by a stark, vast, unmerciful drought that I am witnessing firsthand here in Texas.

The past 10 months have been the driest ever here. Pasture and range conditions were rated “very poor” or“poor” in 96 percent of the state. The Texas drought, the worst in more than a century, has spurred a record $5.2 billion in farm losses, according to a unit of Texas A&M University. Costs to livestock producers may total $2.06 billion partly as ranchers are forced to sell cattle because parched pastures have boosted feed costs.

If there is a silver lining, it is that a rising supply may mean cheaper beef for retailers and restaurant.

Not far from me, the water was shut off for two days in Kemp, Texas, due to pipes breaking in the ground, caused by the soil hardening and shifting. It was yet again 105 in Dallas on Saturday.

Build to Grow

There is an old axiom in business that you have to spend money to make money. Generally, I believe this is true. At a time when governments around the world are taking austerity steps to pay down debt, they are doing little to spur growth and thereby jobs because they are not priming the pump.

Keynesian economics appears to be quite dead, in Europe and here as well. I think the reason is that it was so poorly done, at least here . Very little of the failed stimulus package passed by Congress did much in terms of job creation because so little of it was dedicated to actual infrastructure improvement, you know stuff like building roads, bridges, schools and the like.

This is the stuff of job creation, but it is pretty much off the table right now because of a dysfunctional federal government.

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And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: Eat at Joes

It is at this point in the blog that I must resort to a crass display of commercialism. Barber Business Advisors, LLC helps companies find optimal locations for future operations. We also help economic development organizations with effective marketing strategies. Please visit us at www.barberadvisors.com

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And Now Back to Our Program, Already in Progress

Still, I would suggest that our goal should be to grow ourselves out of this economic malaise, that cuts alone will never do it.  Indeed, there are strong indicators that if we don’t invest in ourselves in terms of infrastructure improvement (a message which I regularly inflict upon unwary local economic developers), we will further jeopardize our economic future and fall ever more behind.

This is not the ravings of a liberal Democrat, which I am not. Rather, these are clear warnings of a rather staid and conservative group, the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Can We Afford Not to?

The nation’s deteriorating surface transportation infrastructure will cost the American economy more than 876,000 jobs, and suppress the growth of the country’s Gross Domestic Product by $897 Billion by 2020, according to an Aug. 3 report released by the ASCE.

The report showed that in 2010, deficiencies in America’s roads, bridges, and transit systems cost American households and businesses roughly $130 billion, including approximately $97 billion in vehicle operating costs, $32 billion in delays in travel time, $1.2 billion in safety costs, and $590 million in environmental costs.

If investments in surface transportation infrastructure are not made soon, those costs would grow exponentially. Within 10 years, U.S. businesses would pay an added $430 billion in transportation costs, household incomes would fall by more than $7,000, and U.S. exports will fall by $28 billion per year.

“Clearly, failing to invest in our roads, bridges and transit systems has a dramatic negative impact on America’s economy,” said Kathy J. Caldwell, president of ASCE. “The link between a nation’s infrastructure and its economic competitiveness has always been understood. But today, for the first time, we have data showing how much failing to invest in our surface transportation system can negatively impact job growth and family budgets. This report is a wake-up call for policymakers because it shows that investing in infrastructure contributes to creating jobs, while failing to do so hurts main street America.”

Who Speaks for Us?

Both Republicans and Democrats blather on about jobs, all the while demonizing each other. Question: Who is going to speak for the American worker?  It matters not to me what party they come from. I just want solutions.

Cannot both parties work together in such a way as to invest in our future by rebuilding our nation’s highways, bridges, airports and schools? Again, spend money to make money. Rebuilding America will spur business growth and create jobs, thereby bringing in new tax monies.

In short, we can grow ourselves out of this economic funk by investing in ourselves.

I suspect from his dandy speeches that our faculty-lounge president knows this. He is a very smart man. But I’ve had just about enough of the speeches. Now I want to see action. It’s what the American people want.

Whether you like it or not, it’s your economy now, Mr. President. Lead or get out of the way.

Need a partner in results-oriented site selection? Contact me, Dean Barber, at 972-890-3733 or at barber@barberadvisors.com  Barber Business Advisors, LLC is a site selection and economic development consulting firm in Red Oak, Texas. Please visit our website at www.barberadvisors.com

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Money and Mayhem: Why Mexico Remains a Hotspot for FDI

In Uncategorized on August 14, 2011 at 9:29 am

.It’s easy to be wrong. So easy. In life and in business, we make decisions, do things, say things, write things based on assumptions and biases that are simply wrong.

I do it. You do it. All God’s children do it. You see, being wrong is part of our DNA. We can never fully escape it, even when we strive for accuracy and truth.

My blog is essentially opinion. I do spend considerable time on it in terms of research. I try not to make too many flippant remarks but rather provide some in-depth analysis based on facts and my real world experience. Some of you agree, and some of you disagree. And that’s fine.

As a matter of fact, I enjoy reading diverse opinions and contrary views, which I invite. But you may notice that I no longer respond.  That’s because this not talk radio and I’m not here to argue or change minds.

If anything, I’m merely trying to shed light on certain subject matters of importance to business and the economy, while occasionally challenging conventional thinking. I don’t write this blog to promote my consulting business per se, although I will admit that I hope that it demonstrates that I’m a thinking man who might be worthy of turning to for help.  That’s what consultants are supposed to do, right?

Most of my readership comes from LinkedIn and Facebook, people who are generally educated and well informed. But even smart people can be boobs at time. While I cannot attest to my intelligence, I can affirm that I do have my boobish moments.

If there is one thing that bothers me, it is when someone launches an attack based on a bogus premise. Either I didn’t say what they said I said, or they’re essentially repeating a point that I made, but don’t know it because they didn’t read the blog or at least didn’t read it carefully.

So they’re just essentially mouthing off, showing that they, too, can have their boobish moments. We will all be wrong at times.

Where Mayhem Reins Supreme

And so it has been with me on the subject of Mexico. My gut, my first reaction, would be – dangerous place, a narco state where corruption and violence rein supreme. And that opinion would be based on considerable newspaper stories that I have been reading and collecting for some time now about all the mayhem south of our border.

And there is mayhem there, as about half of Mexico’s estimated 2,000 communities have reported drug violence, according to Mexican intelligence officials.

Since December 2006, more than 35,000 people have been killed in drug violence, much of it along the Texas-Mexico border. Thousands of businesses have closed in areas with the worst violence, leading to a steady migration of Mexico’s middle class to places like Dallas, where I live.

More than 400 communities across Mexico now operate without a police force after officers quit in fear – or traded their jobs for cartel employment. Earlier this month, the entire 20-man police force of the town of Ascension resigned after a series of attacks  that killed the police chief and five officers.

One of the most gruesome stories broke in April when authorities discovered what to date has been the largest mass grave found in Mexico. Most of the 177 bodies pulled from deep pits near San Fernando had been bludgeoned to death by sledgehammer. As many of 122 of the victims were dragged off buses at drug cartel roadblocks on the major highway to the United States.

Now after providing you with all this downright chilling information, you would expect me to say to stay the heck away from Mexico. As a site selection consultant, the question presents itself as to whether I could in good conscious advise that an industrial client consider Mexico for future operations.  Things like mass decapitations and bodies hanging from bridges do give one pause.

The Blog I thought I Would Right

Avoiding Mexico was the blog that I was expecting to write until earlier this week when I had telephone conversation with a Mexican developer of industrial parks, who provided me with some valuable insight. Then I started scratching the surface even more.

Yes, I could build a strong case against Mexico. But it would not be the whole story. It would not be the whole truth.

The fact of the matter is, and this might surprise you, that despite the violence in certain parts of the country, Mexico remains a hotspot for foreign direct investment, as wages and materials rise in price in other outsourcing capitals like China. In short, cheap labor and proximity to the huge U.S. market are overriding concerns about security.

One government report last month showed that seven states where most drug-related murders take place are receiving greater percentages of the country’s foreign direct investment than they were before the drug war began in 2006.

And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: Eat at Joes

The Financial Times reported that Monterrey, the business capital turned narco playground, raked in $2 billion last year in FDI, compared to $1.4 billion in 2008, before the global recession. And National Public Radio said that the murder capital Ciudad Juarez (more than 3,000 people killed in Juarez last year.) is sending record exports to the United States,  thanks mostly to multinationals and not local businesses.

Indeed, it would appear that many local family-owned businesses in Mexico along the border are closing up shop and moving into safe havens into Texas.

Business leaders say that for the most part, violence from the drug war hasn’t affected the maquiladoras, duty-free factories in Mexico along the U.S. border. Raw materials can enter the maquiladoras from the United States without facing import or export taxes. Finished products then leave the factories and enter the U.S. again without being taxed by either country.

The drug gangs may be leaving the factories alone because the maquiladoras are an important source of income for much of the population. Also, the factories don’t have much cash on hand or products that could be easily resold on the black market.

El Bajio is the Place

Still, it would appear that the largest new investments are moving into central Mexico, a region known as El Bajio, and away from border areas. Mazda, Bombardier, Honda,  Volkswagen, and Eurocopter plants are among the new projects setting up shop in places like Guanajuato, Queretaro, and Puebla.

On Friday, Honda announced that it will build a new $800 million auto assembly plant in Guanajuato, the same region where Mazda Motor Corp plans to build a new assembly plant. Honda said its plant will open in 2014, with the capacity to produce 200,000 vehicles annually. Toyota has confirmed that it is also targeting Guanajuato to build its second plant in the country. Eurocopter, the world’s largest civil helicopter maker, announced in March that will open a $550 million plant in the nearby state of Queretaro.

According to an AlixPartners survey published in April, 63 percent of senior executives chose Mexico as the most attractive locale for re-sourcing manufacturing operations closer to the U.S. market, compared with just 19 percent who would re-source to the United States.

I have to figure that $10-a-day wages at the maquiladoras are the overriding factor in the thinking for many of the surveyed executives.

“While safety and security in Mexico are certainly issues to be taken very seriously, our survey suggests that many companies believe these issues can be effectively dealt with,” said Foster Finley, managing director at AlixPartners and head of its Logistics & Distribution Practice.

“As companies think about near-shoring production that was previously off-shored – to respond to rising labor costs overseas, exchange-rate changes, etc. – Mexico is obviously high on their lists.”

So there you have it. Money trumps security. International companies have their concerns about safety (the developer of industrial parks in Mexico told me that it is typically the first question asked about by international companies), but they are willing to spend money and take measures on security in their risk management plans. Mexico, on the doorstep of the United States, is just too tempting to overlook.

So would I advise a client not to consider Mexico? While I love my country and would hope that manufacturing investment in the U.S. sustains a major comeback with new jobs created, I learned a long time ago not to argue with a client.

You see, this is not talk radio. This is business.

Dean Barber is  the president/CEO of Barber Business Advisors, LLC, a site selection and  economic development consulting firm in Red Oak, Texas — www.barberadvisors.com  You can reach him at dbarber@barberadvisors.com  or at 972-890-3733.

Do I Hear Quacking?

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2011 at 8:12 am

First it was Greece. Or maybe it was Ireland. Then  it was Greece again. And then it came to be our turn, with Congress providing us all with a gut-wrenching spectacle on whether to raise the nation’s debt limit or send us off a cliff.

After that played out, our attention turned back to Europe where we learned of a potential financial unraveling of Italy and Spain. And then Friday night, the ball was back in our court when Standard & Poor’s downgraded the U.S. government’s credit rating to AA+ from the top rating, AAA.

And the bad got worse come Monday. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 634.76 points at the closing bell.  It was the sixth-worst point decline for the Dow in the last 112 years and the worst drop since December 2008. Every stock in the S&P 500 index declined.

All of this bad financial news leaves me feeling a bit punch drunk, and this from a former newspaper business editor.

Briefly, ever so briefly, I was actually optimistic, thinking the stage was set for growth in the second half of the year. But it soon became clear that the rancorous debate snuffed out any remaining confidence traders had for Washington, while poisoning the atmosphere for both employers and consumers.

As a result, the approved deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit and scale back spending by $1 trillion did absolutely nothing to stem a two-week plunge in stock prices, as a fresh batch of data came out showing that the U.S. economy is far more fragile than many had thought. It certainly didn’t change any minds at S&P.

The numbers tell a bleak story, that U.S. growth stalled in the first half of 2011. Gross domestic product grew at a 1.3 percent annual pace in the second quarter after a scant 0.4 percent rise in the first three months of the year.

We Are Backsliding

The Labor Department on Friday reported that we gained 117,000 jobs in July. The White House was spinning that as being good news, but we need to generate about 120,000 jobs a month simply to keep up with population growth. Below that, and we’re not recovering. Rather, we are backsliding. Adding 235,000 jobs a month won’t return us to normal unemployment levels until 2015 or 2016.

The truth is that only a fraction of the more than 8 million jobs lost during the downturn have been recovered. Economists at Bank of America Merrill Lynch say there is a 35 percent chance of another recession within the next year.

“This economy is really balanced on the edge,” Harvard University economics professor Martin Feldstein told Bloomberg. “There’s now a 50 percent chance that we could slide into a new recession. Nothing has given us much growth.”

Meanwhile, across the pond, there is an ongoing question as to whether Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy will be able to pay their bills.

“The state of the global economy stinks,” Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a research note on Wednesday. “Like it or not, growth is slowing or worse in all major economies”

Sounds Like a Duck

There’s a growing realization that we may be entering a dreaded “double-dip” recession. It sure is quacking like a duck, as Corporate America is sitting on record amounts of cash but is refusing to make new investments with so little end demand for its products. Consumers and corporations are hoarding cash, because confidence is just about nil.

So where will future demand for American-made products come from? Will it come from here at home, where home prices continue to fall in most major markets and where more than 14 million Americans remain out of work?

Will it come from Europe, where leaders are calling emergency meetings and seeking to contain spreading fears that a large nation such as Italy or Spain might default and where the political union may fall apart as a result?

Will it come from Japan, still recovering from the devastating March 11 earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear meltdown?  Or will it come from China, which is now admitting that its economy has overheated and where the Communist Party is trying to dampen growth.

Just where will the recovery come from? Answer: Nobody knows, which is creating instability in the markets around the world.

Watch Europe

A world-wide economic crisis appears to be deepening in Europe, where regulators have put banks through a series of stress tests designed to show whether the banks there could withstand defaults by their weaker neighbors.

Fears of default by smaller, heavily indebted countries such as Greece and Portugal have been replaced by concerns about large Italian and Spanish banks. Some investors also worry that the banks are carrying too much of their home nations’ debt and aren’t reporting the true value of those bonds.

That’s causing banks to charge each other more money for overnight borrowing. It’s also making short-term credit harder to get in the United States.

A financial meltdown in Europe could have devastating effects in this country. Because the world’s economies and banking systems are so intertwined in ways that are not even fully understood by the experts, a default by a single major European bank could spark a credit crisis like the one caused when Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008.

“It’s one of those unknowns that’s big enough and scary enough to drag down the (U.S.) markets,” said Kurt Karl, chief U.S. economist at Swiss Re.

Watching, Waiting, Remaining Calm

As a site selection consultant who has served American, European and Asian corporate clientele, I must have a deep understanding of the risks and fears as understood by senior management of those companies. Until conditions improve, most business people worldwide  are choosing to keep their powder dry. They will hold off on capital expansions and hiring; watching and waiting for the opportune time to act.

They know it is unlikely that we’re going to see good economic news anytime soon. The best course of action is to simply be patient, calm and tune out the panic. It is the only rational strategy left.

It may also be dawning on governments worldwide that we are in an environment where growth may be really hard to come by. Congress has proved that it has great difficulty tackling problems at home, much less make a difference in Europe.

“Washington likes to talk about the economy in terms of things it can control. Spending and deficits. Stimulus. Policy uncertainty. But the Dow Jones industrial average isn’t diving because spending has risen, deficits have grown or stimulus policy has changed. It’s diving because of forces Washington can’t control, and in many cases, doesn’t understand very well,” wrote Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein.

“A dramatic gap has opened between the economy as Washington sees it — and wants to intervene in it — and the economy that exists. Whatever weak recovery we might have hoped for is being hindered by global commodity prices, consumer deleveraging, fears of flagging demand in emerging markets, earthquakes in Asia and much more.”

Klein writes that “we seem to have stabilized into an era of high unemployment, low growth and endless risk. Rather than recovering from the crisis, it is almost as if we have settled into it. And no one quite knows how we’re going to escape.”

It’s Just a Hobby

A Swedish man was arrested last month after he tried to build a nuclear reactor in his kitchen and documented his efforts on the Internet.

Richard Handl, 31, from Angelholm in southern Sweden, gathered materials including smoke detectors, clock and watch hands via purchases on the Internet.

“I was just curious to see if it was possible, it is just a hobby,” said Handl, currently unemployed but previously a worker in a ventilation systems factory.

He documented his efforts on a blog and his Facebook page.

Dean Barber is the president/CEO of Barber Business Advisors, LLC, a site selection and economic development consulting firm in Red Oak, Texas — www.barberadvisors.com You can reach him at dbarber@barberadvisors.com or at 972-890-3733.