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The Dow Chemical Company Message Board

  • the_nervous_resistor the_nervous_resistor Mar 5, 2004 3:33 PM Flag

    FYI re: Bush Executive Order on Manuf

    If you are in manufacturing research and you see yourself departing from Dow (one way or another), then the White House Executive Order (see below) may offer a contingency plan.

    This order directs SBIR granting agencies to give high priority to manufacturing research proposals at small companies. This is entirely driven by the politics of job outsourcing to overseas locations.

    How could you take advantage of this? Well, look at contractors who help you in your processes, at your suppliers, or at equipment vendors. You probably know the salesman or the tech rep. These guys are excellent contacts.

    You could together identify a development area, submit the proposal, and join them when the funding comes in. (You could also get hired by them anyway, for being so proactive.)

    Places where this might work are in contract pharma manufacturing, in polymer processing equipment manufacturing, in test and measurement development, etc. Do a Dun&Bradstreet search or google search for companies in your state. In Michigan, there should be lots of small suppliers in the auto industry with fewer than 500 employees, perhaps in instrumentation or process equipment.

    There are SBIR requirements, e.g., company has to be 51% owned by a person, in the US, have fewer than 500 employees, etc. The dollars are staged, up to $1M. Traditionally, there have been delays, but the agencies are working on that. The DoD is the elephant in the room, as far as $$$ go.

    For more info, contact:

    Richard Fowler - - (509) 372-4332
    Gary Spanner - - (509) 372-4296

    They can help you. I know that Richard at Pacific Northwest Laboratory is very responsive.

    So, if you see yourself as getting axed in one-month, this is not the answer. But, if the writing is on the wall in the next 6-18 months, then this may be a contingency plan for you.

    Good luck,


    Executive Order Encouraging Innovation in Manufacturing

    On February 24, 2004 President Bush issued an Executive Order Encouraging Innovation in Manufacturing.

    The first two sections of the Order are:

    �By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Small Business Act, as amended (15 U.S.C. 631 et seq.), and to help ensure that Federal
    agencies properly and effectively assist the private sector in its manufacturing
    innovation efforts, it is hereby ordered as follows:

    Section 1. Policy.

    Continued technological innovation is critical to a strong manufacturing sector in the United States economy. The Federal
    Government has an important role, including through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, in helping to advance innovation, including innovation in manufacturing, through small businesses.

    Sec. 2. Duties of Department and Agency Heads. The head of each executive branch department or agency with one or more SBIR programs or one or more STTR programs shall:

    (a) to the extent permitted by law and in a manner consistent with the mission of that department or agency, give high priority within such programs to manufacturing-related research and development to advance the
    policy set forth in section 1 of this order; and

    (b) submit reports annually to the Administrator of the Small Business
    Administration and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy concerning the efforts of such department or agency to implement subsection 2(a) of this order.�

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    • And what would you charge to haul gasoline in Iraq?

    • By the way, the SSI trust fund results were combined with the budget deficit years before either Bush came to office. It was a way to reduce the perceived level of the deficit. I don't know which party did it.

      If you think the SSI ever had any cash in it, think again. It never did. As you, or any worker, pays into the trust fund, the fund immediately turns around and purchases a special Treasury bond with the proceeds. The cash went to the Treasury. The bonds in the trust fund bear sub-market interest rates and are backed solely by the government's promise to pay. So much for an inflation hedge.

      Even if the SSI was held separate from the budget - it still holds only the special US bonds. Where do you think the money to pay retirees will be coming from once the net cash flow from the SSI taxes turns negative? Higher taxes, new taxes, higher retirement ages, lower COLA adjustments and maye even a means test.

      I recently heard Kerry say on a news program that he shouldn't have a worker earning $22,000 pay his SS, given that he's a millionaire. Then I thought, HEY, he isn't covered by SSI. He gets a far better plan then we'll ever get. Do you think he will turn his back on this jucier plan or put a means test on it if he becomes president? All he said was he didn't think a person earning $22K should pay his SSI but said nothing about the other benefits he gets. I feel both Kerry and Bush need to publically address the consequences of a means test before the voters elect either one of these guys.

    • A very useful post that I hope several will be able to act on.

      One thought though
      << if you see yourself as getting axed in one-month, this is not the answer. But, if the writing is on the wall in the next 6-18 months, then this may be a contingency plan for you.>>

      Have you heard of anyone getting anything more than a 45 day notice? Writing on the wall is that if your current management thinks you may be looking elsewhere for opportunities, it helps them decide who they can best eliminate this round.

      • 1 Reply to furryriverrat
      • Great question furry. My reply has two parts: external and internal.

        Here is the writing-on-the-wall, from an external viewpoint. At heart, no one is suprised when the business they support is in trouble. Underneath, they all know. Suppose long-term volume growth is flat, as it is for Dow, and there is no really new R&D going on for new markets. Eventually, the company will follow standard tactics to improve profits, namely consolidation to move to an oligopoly market and reduction of GS&A. Both mean headcount cuts.

        And, writing-on-the-wall, from internal perspective. Suppose there is no real harmony for you in your job, with your boss, or with your co-workers. For quite some time, an employee will rationalize staying, based upon mortgage payments, healthcare, new family, tuition, etc. But eventually, the spirit fades. Something in them dies. And at work, most folks can tell.

        Then, there are perfect storms, when external and internal forces combine. That happened to me, luckily at the very first stages. I liked the incredible range of technology at Dow; it was fun. Also, I liked the flatness of the organization. You could call anybody in the world and get needed information to solve a problem. I loved that. From loading dock to high tech materials testing labs, the path was easy to traverse.

        But, the warning signs were there. First, the chemical industry was at war with the public; not the industry's fault, just fate and history. Second, and really important, was bad management. Dow decided to effectively kill any hope of new products in new markets by requiring R&D to pursue development of in mature, low-growth markets. This was a recipe for failure. Sure, a couple good products could come out of that (the new polyethylene), but never enough with sufficiently fat profits to justify the investment. Everyone could tell that. And anything "new tech" was managed by guys that really were looking for short-term, quick result imitations of previous work (optoelectronics). There was little that was legitimately new; most was imitation.

        All this came from aligning R&D with the operating businesses. The business management was an anchor around R&D's neck, as they would come in with their low beta (0.5 to 1.1) projects to an R&D operation that needed much higher returns (beta = 3 to 4) to justify the expenditure. Can you imagine trying to make the cash flow from a specialty polymer business (beta = 1-2) after the R&D expenditure with a risk at 3-4? Pure insanity. And, we had the incredible financial luxury of debt financing to boot! Anyway, it was all about corporate power politics, not business. Damn few managers in the first three levels of R&D had a clue about money. But they really knew power politics. What a mess.

        Anyway, I moved to Dow manufacturing for a few years (enjoyed it thoroughly), and then left the company with the very first package offered. The writing was on the wall.


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