OT? *BIG* Woodworking Project

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Although there is a considerable political component to this, I'd appreciate if feedback does not include political criticism (because that would not be constructive - and what's urgently needed is your most constructive and creative thoughts).
The economy sucks. A significant proportion of the (global) population is afraid to spend, and an early casualty is the RV manufacturing industry - for obvious reasons. That industry played a significant role in the economy of Elkhart Indiana - and (at last look) Elkhart is experiencing a 19+% unemployment rate.
Following a PBS Newshour broadcast that reported on their problems, I sent this e-mail to Dick Moore, the Mayor of Elkhart:
===== Begin letter text ==== Yesterday our local PBS NewsHour program reported that Elkhart is experiencing particularly uncomfortable consequences of the general economic downturn, and that your city has both unused production space and people in urgent need of employment.
I own a small business that produces passive solar heating panels, and over the last few years I've been working to develop directly solar-powered engines that appear ideally suited for pumping and refrigeration application.
My present production / R&D facility is located in a rented aircraft hanger at a small airfield on the edge of the small rural community of DeSoto, Iowa. I'm pretty "small potatoes", but I've developed a first class product and orders are on the increase in spite of (or perhaps helped by) the current economy.
The current facility is marginal, and I do not have any significant production workforce available to me.
I'm not much of a "wheeler-dealer" type, and I'm not sure how to go about proposing a nice crisp path from where I am to setting up an operation in Elkhart, but I'm inclined to believe that some kind of partnership between myself and one or several of the RV producers could be worked out so that everyone could benefit.
I'd like to invite discussion if, with your intimate knowledge of Elkhart and the current RV manufacturing businesses, you think this idea might have any real chance of success.
===== End letter text ==== It's been more than a week - and no response (and I'm no longer expecting a response). Obviously, I'm not a wordsmith - but equally obviously, I'm missing something really fundamental here.
Opinions, please...
--
Morris Dovey
DeSoto Solar
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Morris Dovey wrote: ...

...[letter snipped for brevity]...

Good idea.
Would think the Mayor would have been on it like a goose on a June bug and may be that it has been passed on down the line to appropriate folks. Then again, being a generic letter it may not have gotten the attention it deserved.
If you're serious about pursuing it I'd suggest calling the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce Director directly and ask for director of economic development. Although Elkhart is large enough they probably have a separate organization for economic development, any place I've been the COC is a great contact point. The first thing they'll want is a business plan, of course, after the 5-minute coffee klatch is over.
There are bound to be any number of other small manufacturing facilities in small communities all around that are short of work or in danger of or have closed as well. Who has gone under or made cutbacks in DeSoto area in the last year?
Smaller may be better/get more interest as larger places tend to think in terms of hundreds of jobs rather than tens or fewer. We fight the same thing here in SW KS--the guv'nor has turned down permitting for a new power plant that would provide 2000 or so construction jobs and longterm roughly 300 new jobs in operations/maintenance, etc. The spokesman for one of the lobbying groups against made fun of the project supplying "only" 300 jobs and therefore not being economically significant. This is from someone from the Topeka/KC area of course, with their population and economic base talking about a project proposed for a county whose total population is <30,000 and a community of roughly 1750. The larger areas "just don't get it".
--

--

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On Sun, 15 Mar 2009 09:34:08 -0500, Morris Dovey wrote:

My first impression is they need a new Human Resources Director at city hall. Then hire compent help.
Run for Mayor if you ever make the move.
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For a variety of reasons, hard-copy on company letterhead is much more likely to receive favorable attention -- or indeed *any* attention -- than an email (which may well have been routed to a spam folder anyway).
Also, the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce would be a better target for that letter than the mayor's office.
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Doug Miller wrote: ...

Yeah, I missed the e-mail bit. I agree completely anything written needs to be professional-looking and traditional.
If once get contact started undoubtedly e-mail will be convenient in any discussions but it ain't likely to get be as useful in introduction.

Yep, as suggested earlier. Although I'd also suggest going to City web site and look specifically for Economic Development office/official/group/consortium. Don't know if theirs will be city/county/region, but there's bound to be one (or more) and web sites with information as well in all likelihood.
One thing I'd think Morris may run into as noted before is walking into fairly sizable area w/ high unemployment as very small potential employer isn't going to have the impact as would in a much smaller community that just lost its one facility--they're going to be focussed on the larger guys more. Not that one shouldn't make the contact but it's not like he's going to be the salvation of the community so they can't afford to put undue effort in a single very tiny effort. That's nothing against him and they won't be thinking of it as anything except what they see as possible numbers here as compared to somebody else they've been chasing for several years or who may have contacted them.
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Morris Dovey wrote:

[snip]
Another option is a letter to the local newspaper or TV station. This can be nuclear, viz. "why haven't local officials responded..." or merely an inquiry, viz. "what do you think my options are...". Either will generate some response.     mahalo,     jo4hn
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jo4hn wrote:

One caution with that, if you are trying to obtain cooperation from a government or other official, using a nuclear option such as the media is not the best way to start off a working relationship. You might get an initial grudging meeting or two, but there will be "significant hurdles that just could not be overcome to come to closure" and the only thing you will wind up with is wasting your time.
--
If you're going to be dumb, you better be tough

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Snip
Morris I think you should contact the RV manufacturer directly and present the same proposal. While city leaders take credit for the local economy when it is good it is the business snf or workers that make it happen.
IMHO the RV manufacturer will be best suited in determining if this can work and will probably have more pull with local officials in getting special consideration benefits.
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"Leon" wrote

Also, contact any local media. See if you can get a reporter out to your place to do a story.
Or write your own story and shop it around. A human interest story will get people's attention and you can work it from there.
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Morris Dovey wrote:

My experience is that if you want something to happen, don't depend on the actions of others to get it done. Therefore...
1. I would phone first - easy to put off responding to a letter, email or not. Phone who? Well, maybe the mayor for a start but also the Chamber of Commerce, local bank managers and heads of the local RV producers you mentioned. I wouldn't necessarily be asking "Who might be interested in this?", I'd be briefly outlining my idea and asking them for suggestions on who to contact that might be able to help me determine who might be interested. A well connected local lawyer would be a good contact.
2. I'd then phone the potential contacts from step #1 to further refine my list.
3. Once I actually drilled down to useful contacts - people with actual interest in my ideas - I'd take a week off and go talk to them face to face.
One added benefit of a face-to-face is that Elkhart is in Amish country and you should easily be able to find black raspberry pie :)
--

dadiOH
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I forgot to include this liink. http://www.elkhart.org/business_assistance.php
--

dadiOH
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Morris, have a look around this wesite. It is our catch all Indiana homepage. I will keep eyes and ears open for you and forward anything I come across to you. Good Luck Lyndell
P.S. AI stands for: Access Indiana I live in Southern Indiana and we are nowhere near 19% YET! I had no idea it was that bad in Elkhart. Don't rule out an e-mail to Mitch Daniels (Governor) :-) Obama says there will be opportunities in these hard times and I beleive it. I know of a sign business that is doing well, taking down signs where people go out of business and putting up another when a new business starts up . Again Good Luck
http://www.ai.org /

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Morris, I forgot about this man. He is the biggest seller of Rv in this part of the country. He no doubt has the MFG's calling wanting to know when the next order will be. He knows all the MFG;s in Elkhart or anywhere else for that matter. Here tis the link :
http://www.tomraper.com /
Lyndell

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Good Luck Morris. The thought crossed my mind as I read your e-mail: I wonder if the RV manufacturer employees saved any of the money they must have made while building the thousands of mobile homes for the victims of the New Orleans hurricane, most of which are sitting at various places around the country (including Red River Army Depot, nearby) and The Hope, AR, airport, less than a hundred miles from me. They have been in outside storage so long they are no longer fit for human occupancy.
My comments not worth 2 cents.
w.

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Walter wrote:

How can something meant to be outside be made unfit by being outside?
--

-MIKE-

"Playing is not something I do at night, it's my function in life"
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Because Bees, Bugs and Beavers all like to be inside as well? Mostly due to condensation, unheated, and therefore severe mould problems. Lots of plywood which will rot.
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Robatoy wrote:

Beavers. lol!
Makes sense. They heat up during the day, cool off at night. Those things aren't insulated very to begin with.
--

-MIKE-

"Playing is not something I do at night, it's my function in life"
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Thanks, MIKE and Robatoy. That is exactly what has happened.
Hey Bub----Maybe he needs to look at: http://dekalb-tx-edf.home.att.net / He would be welcome here.
Walter.
-MIKE- wrote:

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Are you sure?
<G>
Expect, one day soon, for the mayor of Elkhart to have this sudden, great idea: "How about, if I, as mayor of this fine city, reach out to somebody with a good idea to keep our people in this city working?"
Next there will be a budget for his friends to do research on what it takes to bring somebody's great design/idea to fruition in such a way that his mayor's ass can get re-elected. The mayor's first thought, upon opening your e-mail, would have been to figure out how that is going to help him. Screw the little people who are looking for work, screw the RV business owners who didn't support his last campaign.
Am I a tad cynical perhaps?
Morris, my suggestion is to try the idea which was already ran up the flagpole in this thread: find an interested RV manufacturer directly. Business looks after business. Forget about the politicians doing anything for you or anybody else. You'll be buried in paperwork and you'll never get anything done.
A fellow who has had some lay-offs, a bit of extra plant-space, some manufacturing equipment running at 50% and all he has to do is retrain a few of his favourite employees, dial up the heat and lights a bit and off you go. Have him sign a non-competition waver and put yourself in charge of QC and R&D.
If he can't see the quality of individual and product he's dealing with, you don't want to do business with him anyway.
But politicians? HOPE your e-mail got routed to the junk pile.
r
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Morris Dovey wrote:

I'll take the contrarian position and urge you to stay as far away from Elkhart as possible.
The city, its leaders, its workers, and its economy have demonstrated they know how to fail.
Instead, look at localities that are (relatively) thriving. They will generally have a better attitude toward entrepreneurs, less regulation, lower taxes, eager workers, fewer union problems (Indiana is a "union shop" state), lower cost of living, and a greater percentage of creative thinkers. It is not an accident that economic conditions mirror economic success.
Times are tough all over, true, but some localities just don't get it. Illinois is toying with raising their income tax by 50%; New York wants to tax soft drinks, fur coats, boats, air, whatever. California is screwed.
Indiana has an overall unemployment rate of 9.2%. This is higher than the national average and one might conclude there is, therefore, a pool of readily-available workers. While true, these workers may very well cost your nascent company $55/hour!
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