As many of you make your way over the highways and by-ways of America, you are likely to see the typical road construction that always seems to plague summertime drivers. The only thing different this year is that you may see a huge sign declaring that this construction is now part of the "Re-Investment in America Act!"
This is just typical political spin-doctoring. It's our government's way of convincing us they are spending some of that $800 billion on us instead of giving it all to AIG, GM, Chrysler and the banking industry. All they've done is simply relabel money already appropriated for these construction projects.
The real re-investment in America is happening from regular business owners, like those of us in the aftermarket. But the government isn't really making it easy on us.
We are currently building a new parts store facility with a 6-bay, 12-car capacity service center. We are not the wealthiest parts store, but we are financially sound, and have a 21-year track record of paying our bills, in full and on time. Our local banks, together, received almost $200 million in bailout money, and plastered signs all over town saying they are now "loaning money," as if this is something new they're trying.
With all of these banks flush with cash to choose from, a reasonable person would think getting a loan approval for a financially sound business would be easy. Not so fast, my friend. Because I haven't filed bankruptcy, I pay all of my people a decent wage with benefits, and I guess because I'm slightly overweight, I think a special session of Congress had to be called to review all of my financials. Only then was the loan approved, but without any concessions from the bank. I got a decent rate, but not the best they could give because I was not "needy" enough. I should have changed my last name to Lehman and applied for my own bailout money. It would have been quicker, and I probably wouldn't have to account for how I spent it.
Then came the endless applications for building permits and visits from building inspectors, electrical inspectors, inspectors from the bank, inspectors from the city, the EPA, CIA, ATF, FBI, DHHR, DOT, AFL-CIO, and the Moose Lodge, all with a fee attached, of course.
In the end, I have a very nice facility that will provide my city with twice the B&O (business and occupation) taxes, my customers have the nicest place in town to come to "price match" the retailers, and my service center is the most modern around. We will make more money, but so will everyone else and 'everyone else's' pile will be a lot bigger than mine. If you haven't received your share of my "Re-Investment in the Aftermarket," drop me a line and I'll send you a check right away.
Mark Smith is president of Wholesale Auto Parts, Summersville, W.V. Smith most recently served on the Auto Value/BTB National Advisory Council and on his town's Rotary Club as president.
MARK SMITH President,Wholesale Auto Parts