Thanks to [Xpress] for shedding light on the current state of the local economy and how the downturn is affecting our friends and neighbors ["Down and Out," May 5].
Hopefully, your efforts will compel a few more of us to quit chanting the mantra that small business will save us. Yes, small businesses are providing most of the jobs — by default — as manufacturing jobs (with decent pay, decent hours and benefits), like Elvis, have left the building. Small biz is all that is left. Many of these strip-mall/office-park outfits are there to help larger companies further out-source activities that were formerly done in-house. These overrated "entrepreneurs," fresh from business school with Bill Gates dreams, are employing their training and energy in finding ways to replace HR staff, safety compliance, inventory and many other duties.
Other small-biz firms are focused on finding ways to get yet one more ad in our mailboxes, one more commercial into a half-hour of TV, one more call-center plan based on the availability of cheap labor and a desperate work force. Will more real-estate and retail, competing for the spending power of wealthy retirees, help us rebuild?
We can not sustain a viable economy on these business plans. A sizable chunk of our lost manufacturing base has to be brought back to the U.S. We can manufacture in a clean and green way if we have the political will. This is a hard sell in Asheville. Here, everything is smiley-face, have-a-nice-day, all-is-well, don't-be-negative … Look! … A unicorn! Some would have you believe that we can produce high-speed rail cars from industrial hemp at the local community garden. While not necessarily voodoo economics, it could be labeled new-age nonsense.
I suggest picking up Barbara Ehrenreich's latest book: Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America. A brilliant reality check.
— Larry Abbott