Is it over yet? That’s a broad question that could apply to so many things. It’s 2020, the year of big surprises. The year started full of promise only to be turned upside down by a world-wide pandemic. But to some people, 2020 triggers an emotional response from more than the COVID-19 virus.
No doubt, the public is weary of the virus. In an effort to control the spread; local, state, and federal governments made choices to shut down large portions of the US economy. Many people were out of work and uncertain about their financial future. Children were not able to go to school or participate in normal extra-curricular activities.
Even Thanksgiving celebrations have been “cancelled.” These challenges added heat to a pot that has been simmering for years to the point of boiling over where many parts of the country have experienced social unrest and protests not seen since 1968.
Then, to cap it off, we experienced a very polarized and contentious election! Not surprising many are asking “is it over?” or “when will this end?” Many can’t wait for 2020 to end. But. Will it be any better in 2021 and will the dust begin to settle? How could this impact our businesses? Let’s look at all of these factors. Perhaps we can draw some conclusions.
Record numbers of voters turned out for the national election on November 3rd. The results of the election emphasize the reality that this is a very divided country. In fact, as of this editorial, although the media has reported a winner, the presidential election hasn’t been certified and the sitting president hasn’t conceded defeat. Two important senate races will be decided in January to determine if our country will have a spilt government or if one party will control everything.
Regardless, the political rhetoric continues, social media outlets provide vent for a very frustrated electorate and deep division continues. Perhaps once the presidential election is confirmed and the senate races are resolved, the country will find a way toward common ground and move forward.
The virus shows no signs of slowing. Particularly as we enter the winter months. The most optimistic estimates for the completed testing of a vaccine are late first quarter 2021. However, there are a significant number of people that are wary of any vaccine. Without the vaccine, will herd immunity eventually be achieved? Will the government shut down the economy again? On a personal level, will life be able to return to the pre-COVID normal once a vaccine or herd immunity is achieved?
Many businesses have found better ways to work and have opened up opportunities for employees to work from home. From a business perspective, perhaps the question is “should we return to the pre-COVID normal?”
What about the economy? Clearly, the “slow the spread” shutdown created a ripple through all industry that continues to impact American families.
Sure, the average investor is happy with performance in the stock market (401K’s are doing well), but what about small and medium sized businesses? Consider your personal situation? Is your company running at the same pace as before the shutdown?
Perhaps your business is one that actually benefited from the virus. Even in hard times, some businesses pivot and experience phenomenal growth. Companies that produce solutions that serve to protect people from COVID have experienced huge demand.
What about the social issues? Racial tensions, marginalization of persons due to beliefs, the cancel culture, demonization based on political correctness, and so on are real issues and have reached the boiling point. None of these tensions are new issues. They actually have a common root that began in the Garden of Eden.
However, expression and flavor have changed with several new movements that have come on the scene including Critical Race Theory and Black Lives Matter (which have political overtones as much as social justice followers). Although some would lead you to believe this is an American problem isolated to one particular race or belief, all cultures have experienced both sides of the injustice equation.
The response to social tensions has been higher in some parts of the country than others.
Unless we can find a way to cool these tensions, develop an understanding of one another, and learn to love and forgive; social issues will consume a large portion of energy and continue to harm our society.
To tie all this together, you might ask “why is this important in a manufacturing or industry editorial?” Quite simply, we live in a world-wide community where we are all tied together on many levels, commerce being one of those ties. Each of us has basic needs that must be met through a variety of means.
For example, people need to work to earn a wage. Wages are needed to purchase basic living supplies. Basic supplies must be available for purchase. For basic supplies to exist, they need to be produced by enterprises such as factories, farms, shops, restaurants, and other small businesses.
All of these entities are impacted by disease, government slowdowns, human to human tensions, and the overall mental state of the work force.
Will the dust settle in 2021? Being a realist, many of the issues that caused 2020 to be an unprecedented year haven’t gone away. However, each of us has a choice to make. How will we respond? What can we do to reduce the turmoil so the dust has a chance to settle? Perhaps it’s time to give our fellow man a break, assume good intent, work hard to care for one another, and look beyond the tensions of the day.
Paul V. Kumler, P.E., is president of KTM Solutions, an engineering company that services the aerospace and large-scale manufacturing industries. In addition to aero structures engineering services, KTM Solutions designs and builds tooling supporting a broad clientele and various industries. (www.ktmmechanical.com) The company is headquartered in Greer, South Carolina, with remote offices in Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Kumler serves in several volunteer roles including the SC Aerospace Advisory Board. Mr. Kumler, a professional engineer, is licensed in Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and Washington. He is married to Ginger A. Kumler. Together, they have two grown children and three grandchildren.