The notorious ``R'' word no longer is just a whisper-economists, business leaders, politicians, the average Joe all are worried that a recession may be brewing.
You can add the people in the U.S. rubber industry to the list of the concerned. But come what may, the rubber manufacturing business actually might be able to survive an economic downturn a little better than other business sectors.
It's about experience.
U.S.-based rubber product makers have struggled mightily against a seemingly endless stream of difficulties. Yet it didn't start when the subprime mortgage crisis rocked Wall Street and put the economy in jeopardy in the past year. Nor did it begin when oil prices ballooned to as much as $100 a barrel.
No, American rubber processors have been battling for survival for decades. Vital customers-like the automotive industry in particular, but not alone-cut their supply base. They moved much of their production overseas, forcing rubber component makers to compete globally or lose business.
Some areas that have been hard hit-again, the automotive sector being the best example-have gone through a shakeup for years. This sector already has restructured to a large extent and has made many of the hard decisions that surviving a recession requires.
These and a range of other troubles have hurt, but not killed, this basic industry. The rubber business still struggles, but the survivors are at least knowledgeable and willing to respond to a crisis.
The rubber industry today is filled not with optimists nor pessimists, but realists who hope for the best but plan for the worse.
If experience is a great teacher, the rubber industry is well schooled on how to make it through a recession. Although no one would like to test that theory.