Scary Stuff

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What a week.

Late last week, our Board of Directors voted to close two of our remote locations. The locations were strictly loan production offices, and dealt primarily in wholesale/brokered residential real estate loans. Back in the day, they did a lot of "subprime" lending and so on. We acquired these locations about a year and a half ago, as the result of a deal we cut with another bank.

Well, apparently the locations weren't real profitable to begin with, and they became even less profitable as the economy tanked and regulations increased in that arena. We tried to keep the locations going, but the losses were too heavy; we couldn't support them any longer. Selling wasn't an option, as there's not much market for such an organization these days, so the decision was made to close the locations.

The Board assembled a small team to drive down to the primary location, make the announcement, help the employees gather their personal effects, and then remove all of the paper files, computer equipment, phone equipment, and so on. The primary office was about 12,000 square feet and employed about 20 people.

I was one of the folks on this small team, and as a result, I had to drive a 26-foot rental truck down to the office and help people on what was effectively their last day. Holy cats - what an experience. After nearly 10 hours of hard work, we'd packed-up 400 boxes worth of paper files, and about 1500 pounds of computer and phone equipment.

As unpleasant as the whole situation was, the people from that office were surprisingly understanding. Some even commented that they were shocked it took so long to happen - most figured the doors would've closed on that portion of the operation long ago. It's a true testament to our bank's leadership - they definitely care about people and tried to keep them on for as long as possible. Something tells me that any other organization would've cut their losses long ago.

Regardless, the experience was extremely scary to me. I couldn't imagine discovering that I no longer had a job, much less discovering that I've lost a job with the best company on the planet. I'm not even sure what I would do, or how I would react. I've loved my new job since day one; the people, the projects, the management, and I genuinely care deeply about what I do, and the impact it has on our customers and my fellow coworkers. I'm not sure I'd be as understanding, friendly, and helpful as the folks that we closed down were. Some of them hung around even after they turned-in their last items - they wanted to help us load the truck and clean-up the offices.

It's sad that our economy has become what it has - which is stagnant. Various people have different perspectives on what's happened. Some blame the war, some blame the global markets; I blame us.

Granted, spending a billion dollars a month in Iraq isn't really helping us out, but I really believe the problem is that we've come to expect everything to be delivered to us for such a low cost that we've driven ourselves out of jobs. Everything is outsourced in the name of saving a buck and pleasing Wall Street. As a result, we've stopped producing tangible goods.

A country like ours, which prospered during the industrial revolution, and continued to excel after WWII by innovating and manufacturing tangible goods can't suddenly flip a switch to "import only" and still expect to be on top of the world for very long. We consume items faster than we could ever produce them, and we demand them at prices that wouldn't sustain any "normal" American's livelihood.

What's the solution? I have no idea. But just a few days ago, I witnessed the impact of this whole downward spiral firsthand - people losing their jobs. It's nothing that I ever want to experience again, so I can only hope that things turn around quickly.

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