November 11, 2015 | by Bob Weidner

Waiting is Not an Option

A shrunken industry, a paralyzed government, a call for action

“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old…”   —Peter Drucker

We at MSCI are quite proud of the invaluable set of industry perspectives and insight we put together each month with your help and on your behalf. Our Metals Activity Report (MAR) is the “go-to” source for the most accurate, up-to-date, and complete data on how service centers are doing and where they are going as the economy and our politicians continue to throw us curve balls.

The MAR compilations talk both to the past and to the future. Increasingly we are finding them unsettling on the one hand and an opportunity for a new kind of strategic thinking on the other. To be sure, the growth rate of shipments, since 2009, was a healthy 6.4% last year, and a still strong 5.3% through August of this year. But as those same numbers show, that growth, as anyone in the industry who is paying attention knows, is slowing. Just as troubling is that our total tonnage shipments over the last five years have hovered at levels that are the lowest in thirty-years.

Two conclusions seem inescapable: First, we are doing business in a sharply shrunken landscape. Second, we must be actively, relentlessly engaged in strategic business and political programs that will grow our individual businesses and the manufacturing sector.

Waiting is not an option on any of this. We are working on several fronts to help you run your businesses better in the face of economic and political contraction. We will, for example, be developing a series of meticulously reported and authoritative whitepapers on what we see as the most significant and potentially disruptive issues and industry trends, and how to handle them. We hope, as always, with these papers and with our conferences, to get you thinking about opportunities and cutting edge developments that will expand your strategic planning horizons.

At the same time we will be calling on all of you to step more forcefully into the political arena, first as a civic obligation, but second as a powerful weapon to get the manufacturing economy growing strongly again. The old days of indifference, even outright hostility to Washington’s machinations just doesn’t cut it anymore. From White House imposed regulations, to Congress’ half-baked incompetence, to the gremlins at OSHA, the NLRB and EPA among others, Washington will not leave you alone. Consequently, you simply cannot afford to leave Washington alone. A head in the sand posture leaves you exposed and vulnerable in ways that are easy to visualize.

That is why we are stepping up our entire range of political advocacy, from Get Out the Vote (GOTV) programs, to talking with our congressional representatives face to face, to joining with nearly two dozen coalitions comprised of associations and manufacturing activist groups to bring our cause as forcefully as possible to the powers that have not been listening in Washington. We will urge you to know your senators and representatives as well as you may now know your local alderman or city councilwoman. Where do they stand on the issues that are affecting our lives and businesses? Do they appreciate the need for a well-funded infrastructure program, for immigration reform and effective job training, for top to bottom tax reform that will stimulate the economy, for real enforcement of our trade laws?

The politicians who represent you and the people who work for you want to hear from you on these issues. When your politicians understand that you run an active and effective Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaign believe me, they will listen to you. And if they don’t? That is what elections are for.

It is time, no it is absolutely critical, that we are heard in Washington and in Ottawa. Our lives and our industry depend on it. Peter Drucker understood that to get something new, you have to stop doing the same old thing. And so did the aviator Amelia Earhart. Long before Mick Jagger was a gleam in anyone’s eye, she said: “There are two kinds of stones, as everyone knows, one of which rolls.”

Time to get rolling.