As the 2012 Presidential campaign reaches its conclusion, it’s time for American voters everywhere to answer one simple, but important, question that lies at the heart of this election: Are we better off today than we were four years ago?
As a businessman who employs over 600 people in a rural area of western North Carolina, my answer is a clear and confident “yes.”
Just over four years ago, in September 2008, America’s economy was entering a tail spin. Things were out of control. Some of our biggest and greatest companies were failing, as well as too many small and medium sized businesses. Hard earned and critically important retirement funds that most Americans depend on were vanishing before our eyes. Consumer confidence was quickly dwindling, and as a result, people stopped purchasing non-essential items and in many cases, had to cut back on essentials as well.
Four years—and one Obama term—later, things are vastly different.
Today, major home furnishings retailers are enjoying better sales than last year. Buyers and customers are in good spirits—the fear is gone from their eyes. At Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, our business is separated into wholesale and retail; and I’m relieved to report our wholesale business is ahead by over 10% and our retail sales over 25%. And we are hiring, adding an additional 100 employees, almost all in manufacturing, administration, and retail.
Just like the economy as a whole, we are not fully back to where we were in September 2008. But we are in much better place. Recently, I met with eight financial institutions to refinance our business. Four years ago, financiers had basically stopped lending and we couldn’t even get meetings with them, but now, all eight made proposals to work with us. When I asked them whether they are better off today than they were four years ago, their answer was overwhelmingly positive.
And here’s a bit of anecdotal evidence from someone in the furniture business: in a weak and unsure economy, customers tend to buy muted colors. (That’s why, in the last four years, we have sold 20 different shades of beige!) But when an economy recovers, and is more certain, the converse happens and people buy more color and stylized pieces. Today, I’m happy to report an uptick in color sales, and at our October Furniture Market, we’ll be introducing more color and pattern than ever before.
Even after 31 consecutive months of job growth, and the stock market nearly double what it was four years ago, things are still tough for too many Americans. But there is no question in my mind that the economy is far more stable than it was four years ago and we are heading in the right direction.
Are we better off than four years ago? Yes.
Do we have more to do to ensure that every American has a shot at the American dream? Yes.
And is President Obama the man I want leading that charge? Yes. There is just no other option. We have to keep moving forward.