Page 12 - BusinessWest October 13, 2021
P. 12

ALoss, but Also an Opportunity
s we absorb the news that Smith & Wesson will be has a help-wanted sign outside its doors, either figuratively or packing its bags — some of them, anyway — and leav- quite literally. For many years now, there has been a huge imbal- ing Springfield for Blount County, Tennessee, a self- ance between the number of people these plants could hire and
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 proclaimed ‘Second Amendment sanctuary,’ we are left with a number of questions.
Ironically, most of them don’t involve whether more could have been done, and should have been done, to keep the company here, which is usually the case when a corporation decides to headquar- ter itself somewhere else. Despite CEO Mark Smith’s insistence that the company left because of proposed legislation that would ban the manufacturing of many of the company’s products (specifically assault weapons), it seems clear that Blount County made the cor- poration an offer it couldn’t refuse. And didn’t refuse.
No, most of the questions the day after the announcement was made concern just how big a loss this is for the city and the state. And those questions are certainly hard to answer.
On the surface, it’s certainly a big loss when the corporate brand most identified with your city (most people couldn’t tell you Mass- Mutual is headquartered here) is lost to somewhere else. There’s also the history; Smith & Wesson was founded in Springfield in 1856, and the company has been a big part of the city’s manufac- turing tradition.
But having one of your city’s largest employers be a manufactur- er of weapons that kill people has long been somewhat of a public- relations problem. The jobs are good, but many have chosen not think too long and hard about what the people employed there are making and what they’re used for.
Aside from losing a big piece of Springfield’s history, we’re also losing roughly 550 jobs. That’s not insignificant, certainly, but let’s not forget that every manufacturing operation in Western Mass.
the number they have hired, because there just hasn’t been enough qualified people in the labor pool.
So ... if you were ever going to lose 550 manufacturing jobs, or 550 jobs of any kind, this would be the time to lose them.
Which brings us to state Sen. Eric Lesser’s comment (see story on page 14) that this development with Smith & Wesson might be actually be some kind of blessing in disguise.
That’s an odd choice of phrase — and he was quick to note that he was obviously concerned about the 550 families to be impacted by this — but in many ways, it works.
Smith & Wesson is not leaving Springfield completely. It will maintain many of its operations and employ 1,000 people. That’s certainly good news. But no later than 2023, a good number of skilled workers — how many, we don’t know because some of those currently employed will follow the company to Tennessee — can take skills to other area companies that desperately need them.
The depth of this need is evidenced by the number of manu- facturers who have already reached out to Lesser, other elected officials, the MassHire agencies, and even those employees them- selves, letting them know that they are ready and willing to take them on.
It’s possible, that’s possible, that Smith & Wesson’s decision to relocate its headquarters and some operations to Tennessee might provide the means for some area companies to grow and perhaps open the door to additional employment opportunities.
This bombshell announcement by the company certainly repre- sents a loss. But in some ways, it may also represent opportunity. u
  Facebook’s Problems Are Societal
By John Garvey
Is Facebook really Big Tobacco? The answer is ‘no’ — and there is no reasonable comparison, despite the
compelling testimony of the Facebook whistleblower.
A two-sentence trip down memory lane on the subject of the tobacco industry will refresh our collective memories about an industry that was not only supported by government subsidies, but protected by the government. The tobacco industry was, in fact, founded on the back of slavery. So, despite the attention that the ‘Facebook is Big Tobacco’ comparison attracts, it is wild- ly hyperbolic and does a disservice to any alleged misdeeds of the social-media giant.
Now that we got that out of the way, what is Facebook, then? Really popular. As you know, your mother is on Facebook commenting on your posts that you need to lose weight, and your kids are on Ins- tagram hiding their profiles from you. I hesitate to introduce the fact that they are probably over on TikTok, actually, because that will give you a headache.
Breaking news: the fight between Face- book and the whistleblower/Congress was over before it started. Where’s the evidence,
you say? The perceived and actual value
of Facebook was debated the day before the whistleblower testified in Washington, when someone at headquarters apparently tripped over and disconnected the network cord to Facebook, Instagram, and Whats App (OK, that’s fake news, but they each did go down on Oct. 4). The world noticed, consumers’ demand was tested and passed, and the stock priced declined.
However, just as the whistleblower started to whistle, Facebook’s stock began to rebound.
Are the charges serious? Yes, but they are societal as well — meaning it’s not just the algorithm that pushes nefarious content in front of us and our children. It is, in fact, us. We have choices, and we can easily unlike, complain, or log off if we are confronted
by information from any source that we find offensive. Conveniently, your digital marketers will support your complaints because they — meaning me — do not want you to log off and wish to continue to put information in front of you that you will feel is relevant, compelling, and use- ful. That is how the algorithm is supposed to work, and there are coders tweaking it
every day to make it better.
Here’s where I understand your anger,
though. Mark Zuckerberg is absolutely not the right person to be leading or speaking for Facebook at this time. While he may still be popular with the Facebook employees, outside the building, he is barely discern- able. This is one guy who fails to emote or show empathy.
I know, this presentation is somewhat simplistic. But if you are on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest, or, indeed, LinkedIn (is Snapchat dead yet?), I sincerely hope you are getting some value out of the platforms you frequent. Compa- nies like Facebook need to be more trans- parent and will be forced to in the future
— but more likely by you, the public, rather than Congress. So, keep showing up, but also keep weighing in.
After all, we do not want to wait centu- ries for improvements, like we had to for government’s regulation of Big Tobacco. v
John Garvey is president of Garvey Communication Associates Inc.
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