Record low unemployment rates have some unforeseen consequences. My home county’s rate has not been this low in many years, yet the residents do not seem to be very optimistic about the future. Perhaps it is difficult to trust “the numbers” when you are surrounded by the “faded glory” of its past as a center of the world’s oil industry.
This hits “home” for me because it has been very difficult to find contractors for some improvement projects on the house we bought in 2017. At first I thought the poor response was due to having the “wrong” area code on my cell phone. This theory was disproved by using my better half’s “local” phone; few vendors called back on that line either.
Those that did call back sometimes actually came out to discuss the projects. None followed up with a written quote. One gave a verbal quote, renegotiated it twice when I called to request start dates, and still has not put a shovel in the ground.
So what does my remodeling dilemma have to do with gears? I am seeing a similar pattern in a recent project for a client! Said client needed a very special gearbox arrangement. I have designed and fixed thousands of gearboxes and this one is unique, but only in its final arrangement. The parts themselves are not at all unusual.
It is a fairly substantial piece went completed, slightly less than a ton. We sent bid packages out to six shops I have done business with previously. Within hours half responded; one was excited for the opportunity. Two indicated they were not interested in having to compete for work.
While I appreciated the prompt “no thanks” e-mails, I worry about the long term effects of avoiding projects that require a competitive response. We know that boom times never continue forever. How quickly does “don’t want to compete” become “unable to compete?”