Something about the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act (aka The Stimulus Package) has been bothering me for several months now. Until recently I was not able to really put my finger on what was bugging me.
It started with the initial discussions surrounding it. Yes, it is a staggering amount of money. Yes, the country is incurring huge amounts of debt. However, many of those that came out in opposition were using the “we are mortgaging our children’s and grandchildren’s future”, “we are piling debt on their backs”, or “our children will not be able to pay off our debts”. These are the same people that want to continue to burn oil, gas and coal to power our daily lives. If that is not mortgaging our children’s future, I don’t know what is. Every mile we drive, every lump of coal we burn, creates a huge burden of debt on our children’s head. Even if you don’t buy into global warming or climate change, you cannot argue that our addiction to fossil fuels is creating a huge health burden for the future. Coal is a cheap fuel only because we are not paying for its full cost.
Almost immediately after ARRA was signed into law, I would sit in meetings with other business professionals and invariably the discussion would be splattered with comments like “I want to get a piece of it”, “we have to figure out how to get a hold of our share”, or “where can we find a project to submit”. One website that was gathering project information had over 9,000 projects for the state of Indiana alone. This was before one dime was released or even before we had any understanding of what was in the volumes of text of the bill.
Recently, I participated in a workshop helping to provide information regarding the stimulus package. I sat at a table with one gentleman that admitted he was embarrassed to be there. When I asked why, it was because he was so against the Stimulus Package and the Obama Administration that he didn’t really want to take the money. Almost as if it was tainted or blood money. But yet he was there trying to get his piece of it for his new business venture. Unbelievable to me. This was a man who had been laid off from his company after 10+ years of service, was so against the Stimulus (which was written to create and save jobs) that he felt guilty even attending a workshop, yet was there to get funding for a new business. If ARRA had not been passed, it makes you wonder where his business would look for funding. Of course, this same man informed me that alternative energy was a joke and we would never solve the energy crisis that way (his company was building a new fuel efficient engine). We needed to rely on nuclear. When I admitted that I struggle with the nuclear question because of the toxic waste, his answer was that we bury it and sometime in the next thousand years we would find a way to dispose of it by blasting it into the sun.
Now, really? First of all, isn’t that kind of like hiding your head in the sand and letting our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren solve a problem that we create. (Kind of like borrowing from the future isn’t it?) Then, seriously, we are going to blast it off to the sun? When are we going to learn that trashing the natural world is only going to cause problems in the future? Who knows what kind of problems that would cause? We already have to worry about space walking astronauts getting clobbered by junk we sent up hurtling through space.
Ok, I digress, back to the Stimulus Package. Most businesses will not receive funding directly, especially small businesses. Yes, there are some provisions for small business like the elimination of the SBA Loan Fees, however the majority of businesses will benefit from the stimulus by providing goods and services to businesses or government agencies that ARE receiving funds. I heard some excellent advice last week that made me realize what was bothering me so much about what appeared to be almost panhandling. Ed Dougherty from B&D Consulting in Washington, D.C. had this piece of advice for businesses looking to gain from ARRA. Look first at your own business strategy, and then look to see where your strategy aligns with the goals and objectives of the stimulus package. Once you have identified where your strategy aligns with the goals then you can begin to identify the projects and the companies that are being funded by the stimulus and initiate your sales and marketing methodology to target those projects and companies. This really made sense to me. In a sense he was saying to remain true to your business strategy. Don’t change the focus of your business to chase the stimulus money, but rather, seek the areas of alignment. I’d be willing to bet a significant number of those 9,000 projects are those that don’t really fit the strategy of the company or companies that submitted them.