Taking the bad with the good

Published 12:55 pm Sunday, July 27, 2008

By Staff
A few days ago, the Washington Daily News was criticized by Beaufort County’s chief economic developer for reporting that Fountain Powerboat Industries was in danger of losing its listing on the American Stock Exchange.
One of Beaufort County’s largest employers experienced financial problems that prompted Amex to consider delisting that company and the newspaper is not going to report that news? Get real. Making that situation known to the public, people who invest in stock markets and probably to some Fountain employees is called doing the right thing.
When it’s bad news, it appears certain people want the media to put their collective head into the sand like an ostrich. When it’s bad news, they do not want to talk about it.
When it’s good news, they cannot get enough media coverage and enough time speaking with reporters about that good news. When it’s good news, like the announcement a few days ago that Fountain has plans to add 250 new jobs at its manufacturing facility during the next several years, the Washington Daily News will report that, too. As it has reported about the Beaufort County Economic Development Commission’s successful efforts to bring industries to the Beaufort County Industrial Park and establish the new industrial park in Chocowinity.
Companies like XS Smith, Brooks Boatworks and Egret Boat now call the Beaufort County Industrial Park their home. Those successes were reported by the media, as was the successful effort to build the two quick-start buildings there, one of which is occupied and the other attracting attention from prospective industries.
Some people have criticized the media for reporting the ups and downs and problems associated with trying to bring an ethanol plant to Beaufort County. Well, if there are ups and downs and problems with such an effort, the public has the right to know about them, especially if tax dollars are involved, either directly as in incentives or indirectly as in grants from state or federal agencies to help move that effort along.
Back to the Fountain situation.
Fountain’s net sales for the third quarter of fiscal year 2008 were $14,222,639, a decrease of approximately 13.7 percent when compared to net sales of $16,475,688 for the comparable quarter of fiscal year 2007, according to Fountain’s Web site. The notice from Amex stated Fountain “has sustained losses which are so substantial in relation to its overall operations or its existing financial resources, or its financial condition has become so impaired that it appears questionable, in the opinion of the Exchange, whether such company will be able to continue operations and/or meet its obligations as they mature.”
That’s news, pure and simple. It’s not good news, but it’s news.
The Washington Daily News’ story also included an explanation by Irving Smith, chief financial officer for Fountain Powerboats, as to why the company’s net sales for the third quarter of fiscal year 2008 had fallen — a weak retail market. The article also included Fountain’s plan to address the delisting threat.
If no one else is interested in Fountain’s stock position, one would think people who own Fountain stock would be. They should be informed about the company’s stock position. That’s what the newspaper did, inform people.
Some economic-development people need to understand the media is not their public-relations voice to raise only to trumpet successes and silence when they want to ignore the problems and failures.
The media will do its job of reporting the news, good or bad. And as economic developers do their jobs, the media will report on those efforts — successes and failures.