(Sept. 22, 2008) — It's autumn in America. Leaves are starting to change — kids are back in school — baseball playoffs will start soon — and it's time for politicians to start paying attention to small-business owners.
If you haven't noticed, national candidates from both political parties are chasing votes and support from small businesses. John McCain and Barack Obama are each proposing ways to deal with major issues facing companies like plastics processors.
And processors definitely are facing some significant problems this fall — issues including high energy prices, rising health-care costs, dealing with global competition and getting this sluggish economy turned around.
This is traditionally when candidates visit factories around the country, touting what they'll do for small-business owners, workers and the economy. You know the drill — find a success story, shake some hands, give a nice speech. Hope for a sound bite on the national news, and some uncritical coverage from local media.
There's more than a bit of fantasy in their speeches at these business visits. Close your eyes and you can imagine a world with no layoffs, a stable dollar and an abundance of clean energy.
Just one problem (apart from the “Will this plan work?” question): the McCain and Obama proposals don't have very much in common.
Who has the better energy plan? Most of the public's attention is on gasoline prices, but natural gas is of critical importance to North American plastics suppliers and processors. How would the candidates' plans affect natural gas supply and demand? These are critical questions. Americans have been though energy crises before, but this time it's not a passing fad.
Health care looks like another issue where the results of this election might actually bring change. Can reform actually help make U.S. employers more competitive globally — or will it saddle businesses with costs or bureaucracy that some cannot afford?
Then there's the really big difference between these candidates: taxes. Obama and McCain differ on tax rates, capital gains taxes and estate taxes. How would entrepreneurs and investors react to each plan? How would each affect the economy, and the budget deficit?
So far, there's one positive trend to note. Unlike the past two elections, partisans on both sides don't appear to be quite as polarized. They differ, obviously — but the distinctions (so far) are on issues, rather than personal attacks. That's a good sign. We hope that, without all the rancor we've seen in the past, candidates from both sides of the aisle will be able to put their differences aside after the election and work toward a common good.
Or at least not screw things up as much as they've done lately.
There's a trend hiding in the footnotes of our annual survey of North American film and sheet manufacturers.
Did you find it? Here's a hint: Check out the parent companies.
Editorial research coordinator Hollee Keller notes that fiscal 2007 was the year of private equity. Nine of the top 100 ranked film and sheet firms have private equity owners in this year's ranking.
The trend isn't exclusive to film and sheet. In the past year's Plastics News rankings, which include thermformers, injection molders, recyclers, rotomolders and blow molders, we've had 13 footnotes introducing new private equity ownership.