Hope burns brighter than the light at the end of the tunnel as a tough construction environment lingers
I've often heard people blame the media when the economy goes south, saying the media spreads doom and gloom. There is truth to that at times, although you'd have a pretty hard time making the case that the economic woes of 2009 were media created.
Still, I've always taken that sentiment to heart and done my best to avoid spreading “doom and gloom” with RER. We try to keep a positive view on things as much as we can and communicate an optimistic message, promoting the best of what the rental industry has to offer.
At the same time, whenever I speak with rental people throughout North America, they often ask me “what are others around the country saying?” in terms of the general rental environment. Whenever I get this question — which is often — I'm glad to communicate what I've heard, and it is obvious people ask me this because they want the truth. They aren't asking me to give them a sunny-side-up version. They are asking me because they know I talk to a lot of people and they trust me enough to be candid.
With these thoughts in mind, Brandey Smith and I embarked on a project for this particular issue to speak with rental people in two particular states to try to get a universal view across by concentrating on local areas. I spoke with rental people in Ohio and Brandey talked with people in Louisiana.
I certainly found the going tough in Ohio. If there's a light at the end of the tunnel, most of them have yet to see it. Almost everybody I spoke with — and there were others besides those quoted in this article — gave me pretty much the same message. Demand is minimal, rates are as bad as they've ever seen, and they sense little indication that the rental economy is about to turn the corner. Most of their customers have few jobs on the horizon and they are doing what they can to get by, often taking jobs with very little profit margin so they can keep their employees working and pay their bills — responsibilities that don't just go on hiatus because the economy is in the trough.
I admire their resiliency, their can-do spirit, their determination not to be defeated. Some have had to let go of staff, others haven't. They are determined to stay the course, to do what they know how to do best, and serve their customers. Some are aggressively seeking out new markets or looking for new ways of doing things, while others are more cautious.
Louisiana is a bit of a different animal. I've heard many people refer to this recession as the “perfect storm” of economic conditions teaming up to hit us with a strong punch. Louisianans have already seen a perfect storm or two, named Katrina and Rita, and just as they seemed poised to start to climb out of the pit those massive hurricanes put them into, along came the storm of recession. I had the chance to witness personally some of the devastation of those hurricanes and know how catastrophic they were. There is still a vast amount of rebuilding to be done. For many Louisianans, there is only one direction they can go in and that's up.
Recessions don't get nice names like Katrina or Rita. And they sometimes pop you in the eye so fast you never saw the punch coming. But they can cause pain and the rental people have seen plenty of it. Yet people in Louisiana seem to see more light of hope, with the possibility of recovery work about to be made reality soon.
Rental people are a tough lot. You've been through the good times and bad times, been through the battles and aren't afraid to fight them.
Speaking of companies dealt a strong blow and yet being tough enough to endure it and keep fighting on by improving their company, how would you like to be a manufacturer of aerial equipment right now when nobody wants to buy? Not easy! Craig Paylor has seen a lot in his 31 years with JLG, so check out his thoughts starting on page 10. The people at JLG, like a lot of equipment manufacturers, are hoping we're bouncing along the bottom now as well, rather than heading further south.
As we go to press, the most recent economic indicators seem to be positive, but there is a long way to go to get out of these woods. Fortunately the human spirit is still alive and kicking and in the battle for the long haul.