The good news famine

Lately, everyone seems to be famished for a little good news, don't you agree? People are not greedy, mind you. They don't expect overnight miracles, but it is clear that many could use a nourishing tidbit of something positive to chew on while reviewing gloomy tonnage reports, or truck sales data, or unemployment figures, or the stock market closing numbers for the day. Well, at the considerable

Lately, everyone seems to be famished for a little good news, don't you agree? People are not greedy, mind you. They don't expect overnight miracles, but it is clear that many could use a nourishing tidbit of something positive to chew on while reviewing gloomy tonnage reports, or truck sales data, or unemployment figures, or the stock market closing numbers for the day.

Well, at the considerable risk of earning a first place Pollyanna Award, I went scavenging for good news scraps in the overflowing bins of bad. It was not a pleasant project, I can tell you that — nasty smells, rotten reports, dirty deals and all, but I found a few hopeful, palatable things, and I am happy to share the pickings with you right now.

First of all, Transport Capital Partners recently reported the results of a national carrier survey. While 22% of the respondents said they had or were considering leaving the trucking industry, 36% said they were actually interested in expanding by buying another company.

In its own quarterly survey of executives worldwide, McKinsey gathered feedback from 1,820 business leaders. Although 90% of the respondents said they expected their own country's GDP to get worse in 2009, 40% said that they expected the upturn to begin by the end of this year. According to McKinsey, aggregate responses suggest that the executives polled expect a recession of about 18 months total, with a recovery driven by effective regulations and fiscal policies, safe leverage ratios, and a moderate recovery of trade and capital flows. Not exactly sweet news perhaps, but not so bad, right?

One of the most heartening news bites comes from Honda UK. Battered like almost everybody else in manufacturing, Honda found an alternative to letting its workers go. At the end of January, the company reported that it would close its vehicle manufacturing plant for four months. However, employees who decide to stay on with Honda anyway (rather than opt for the voluntary severance package) will receive full pay for the first two months of the plant closure and then about 60% pay for the remaining two months. When the plant reopens, workers are expected to pay the company back with unpaid overtime hours.

Honda's “we'll all get through this together” approach (even without a government stimulus package) is a welcomed reminder that there is often more than one solution available to a given problem, even during the worst of times. In this case, everybody stands to win because of Honda's decision. The company retains its experienced workers, and employees are spared the trauma of suddenly being out of work in a miserably tight job market. If other companies are inspired by Honda's innovative example, the good they have done will be multiplied further still.

In fact, the idea of companies learning from one another, helping one another to weather the current economic storm, was the genesis of this last little taste of good news. John Dugmore is the chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce for the county of Suffolk, England. Apparently worried about the effects of his constituents' steady diet of distressing reports, he posted a call for good news on the chamber's web site: www.suffolkchamber.co/uk.

“We all see and hear messages of gloom and doom, but we want to ensure that the businesses in Suffolk who continue to do well during these testing economic times are not overlooked,” Mr. Dugmore wrote. “Growing business is good for Suffolk's economy, and if we can showcase how businesses are adapting to overcome the current economic climate and, at a bit more basic level, learn from each other what works and what doesn't, then all of Suffolk's businesses will benefit.”

Here, here, Mr. Dugmore! Well said.

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