This economic downturn is nothing more than a collection of intertwined problems. Although financially painful and physically overwhelming, there is no reason for any of us to hide underneath our desks and wait for the shaking to end. Think about the steps we all take when trying to overcome a timely problem for an example, a clogged drain. We take a short period of time to analyze the situation. We look at all the factors involved and ask ourselves crucial questions: Is the water draining at all? Is the clog causing the pipes to leak? How severe is the leak? Is it causing immediate damage? Next, inevitably, it is human instinct to search for the quickest fix. We switch on the garbage disposal and rub our lucky rabbit's foot. When we are forced to take real action we must recognize the weapons we have to combat the problem (a plunger, a drain snake, Drano). After we extinguish our resources, we then consult the knowledge of an expert.
Now consider the enormity of our current economic struggles. The formula for dealing with the problem is much more complex, but it should still follow the basic fundamentals. Why then have droves of investors been complacent to listen to long-winded "experts" before analyzing their situation and deducing what it is that they can do for themselves? The formula is flip-flopped when we let ourselves believe that any given problem is too big or too complex. Many of the intricacies of this recession are out of our control, but the sooner we take control over the issues we can influence, the sooner the complex problems begin to untangle.
If the severity of a problem is directly proportionate to the amount of time we take to analyze it, then we only need a brief moment to stare into a clogged drain. In that same vein, our economic crisis is much more complex and has required a longer period for analysis. I argue we have passed this stage of the process and action is required now. This summer brought about a number of signs that suggest we are now slogging around somewhere near the bottom. With home-improvement projects, summer vacations and outdoor entertainment, consumers typically spend more in the summer months. We are now entering what is destined to be a difficult autumn. Unemployment will continue to strain families, foreclosures will mount and consumers will tighten the belts they let momentarily loosen over the summer.
On the other hand, as the leaves turn and nature gets stripped of its color, a buckled economy will continue to present opportunities for us to take action. It is time for all of us to stop viewing ourselves as helpless observers and again consider ourselves part of the solution.
To be an important cog in the recovery machine, we must put our money to work. Our money does not do any good stuffed in a mattress or buried underneath the deck. Private capital built this country, and there are few economic problems that private capital cannot solve, if allocated effectively. During the Great Depression, a time when the economy constricted and the majority of construction projects were put on hold, the entire construction of the Empire State Building was completed. Thanks to funding from its principle backer, an automobile tycoon aiming to one-up a major competitor, the Empire State Building was constructed with staggering momentum. During the Depression, building materials were cheaper and workers were eager to earn a wage, much like today. The construction put people and money back to work in dire times, not to mention the mystique the building has given our country for nearly eight decades.
A project as grand as the Empire State Building might only come around once a century, but that does not rule out the need for quality projects in our own communities. When private capital teams with quality-managed projects, the outcomes can be extraordinary. But you need both. Whereas quality projects cannot get off the ground without capital, poorly-managed projects get run back into the ground even with all the capital in the world. Every successful venture has to be properly backed and the majority of the backing comes from private capital. At the end of the day we, the people, are the engine that runs our country.
This recession has torn through our communities and left a stockpile of quality real-estate projects to collect dust. Without proper funding, the projects remain undeveloped, unproductive and severely underemployed. Placing our private capital into quality projects will bolster the number of available jobs in our communities and get people behind a meaningful cause. There are loads of individuals that could be taking charge and becoming part of this recovery. We will show great resilience when we, on our own, come out of this strong, super-charged and feeling part of something.
We have to put the days of excuses behind us. We should be searching for any project that someone says "can't be done" and aim to defy. When the newspapers have stopped reporting stories that highlight economic blemishes, when our unemployment numbers are approaching all-time lows and when our government takes a permanent vacation from bailouts, we will only vaguely remember our current doubts. We will, however, remember the period of time when we all did our part to restore communities. We will remember the turning point when we took action to pull ourselves from the painful times and regained our spot as part of the recovery equation.
Thomas Powell is chief executive officer of ELP Capital in Reno. Contact him at 283-5363 or through elpcapital.com.