I'm an optimist by nature. Also a realist. The fact these characteristics are contradictory probably answers some disturbing questions about myself that we won't get into.
But I do have hope, and that's what the rubber industry needs now. You've gotta have hope, the fuel to keep your inner fires burning. We need lots of it as another Year of Uncertainty begins.
The most hopeful sign is Ford Motor Co.'s declaration it will play nice with its suppliers. No more demanding discounts just for its benefit, at the expense of the supplier. A real cooperative relationship.
I hope that spreads.
I've got my fingers crossed that people keep buying vehicles at such a surprisingly high rate. One wonders what will happen if incentives and low interest rates evaporate. As it is, the rubber industry hasn't much benefited from the sales boom. Weird times.
I wish I could say I'm brimming with optimism over the economy. No, the realist comes into play in that issue-who knows where it's going? I thought we were supposed to have a recovery long ago.
A strong economy theoretically should translate to better times for the rubber business. The industry wasn't exactly flush with money during the final years of the eight-year boom period, though-probably because it makes real things, not fantasy stocks, which Wall Street embraced at the time. Gone now, though, while the rubber industry remains.
I'm very encouraged by the entrepreneurial spirit of many small rubber processors. It sure looks like they're finding and filling every niche they can. As a group, they haven't given up hope.
The bigger guys-I pray Goodyear will get it together, that Cooper maintains its resilience, that Bridgestone/Firestone and Michelin continue to succeed. There are a lot of jobs riding on this.
Finally, I hope both sides go into the master contract labor negotiations this year with a realistic attitude. I hope for peace.
Noga is editor of Rubber & Plastics News.