Late in 2010 I had the pleasure of an intense travel itinerary through Australia and New Zealand. There, I met hundreds of supply chain professionals who were interested in SCC and my presentation topic, “The New Reality” of Supply Chain Management, which is a compilation of the key trends that emerged from our recent Executive Summit. On a personal level, it was refreshing to be in the Southern Hemisphere in the summertime for once.
As I travel around the world, I listen carefully to members and supply chain experts to see what trends are occurring, what needs are evolving for supply chain professionals, and the “state of business.” Are things are good or bad, growing or shrinking? What I saw in Australia and New Zealand left me flabbergasted, and nostalgic.
Walking back to my hotel down High Street (Main Street) in Wellington after the final afternoon executive briefing session, was energizing. People were walking around, shops were open and bustling, traffic swirled, everyone looked focused, but relaxed. I also noticed that there were no “to rent” signs. Not one empty storefront, no abandoned signs. In Auckland, walking around in the evening, I felt the same way. There were no ‘vacancies,” just an atmosphere that felt busy and prosperous.
What really put the cap on the experience was in Melbourne. I had a couple of days of meetings with Philip Morris in the suburbs in a fairly industrial and, frankly, a bit older area. I was going back to my hotel in the late afternoon and to avoid a traffic jam, we took surface streets. Here I saw endless rows of machine shops, auto repair shops, sheet metal shops, bicycle manufacturing, lawn equipment for sale, gyms, groceries, pharmacies, and surf board shops. Miles and miles of industrial production in small shops where I simply didn’t see – during an hour of driving – any “vacancy” signs, abandoned buildings, or an empty storefront. All of the people looked focused and prosperous and, above all, busy.
In my adopted hometown of Houston, I can’t imagine driving for an hour in any direction without seeing a number of empty shops, buildings, vacancies, “for rent” signs, and abandoned-looking areas. And Houston is relatively well-off economically. When I’ve been in Europe recently – Brussels was a recent shock – I’ve seen seemingly entire blocks of handsome old buildings with lower floors “a louer”, and industrial areas devoid of human beings.
I commend Australia and New Zealand for both having wonderful, friendly people, and also for being so economically successful. Sometimes it’s the very small things – such as no ‘for rent’ signs – that signal an underlying strength.
At SCC we’re saddened by the loss of life and property from the devastating floods in Australia. We wish everyone in Queensland a speedy recovery.