In the coming days, Confer Plastics will reach a huge milestone: 50 years of business.
Getting to this point was never a certainty. Even in the very best of times, business owners always have a little bit of pessimism, concern over what tomorrow brings.
It doesn’t matter if you’re running a restaurant, boutique, farm, or factory. There are always obstacles, threats, and risks.
Looking back at the past half-century, there were plenty of those.
When my grandfather Ray started the business he literally “bet the farm”, using his home and the family farm as collateral to get the loans he needed. It’s the same place my dad Doug and I had to use as personal guarantees to get the company through the Great Recession.
We faced seven recessions and some business leaders believe we might be in an eighth one now.
We took on runaway inflation in the 1970s, early-1980s, and now, in the 2020s.
We made it through the weeks-long state-mandated shutdown during the dawning days of the COVID crisis.
The past three years have seen unprecedented supply chain disruptions from the pandemic, the Texas Deep Freeze, the war in Ukraine, and more.
We see constant threats from China, with copycats of our products appearing regularly in the marketplace.
Yet, somehow, amid all these factors and more, we survived ... and we’ve had fun. We’ve made it to a half-century — and hunger for at least another 50 years — because of you.
If you are one of the “Three Cs” — customer, coworker, community — you helped us get to this moment and you’ll help us reach other milestones. I thank you for that. I am forever indebted to what you mean to us.
As a customer, whether you’ve bought our Confer-branded items — like one of pool ladders or hot tub step — or a custom product that we made for another company, like a kayak, dock, or birdhouse, please know how much we appreciate your commitment to the Confer team. We make leisure products, discretionary items that are wants, not necessarily needs.
But, you find the money to buy them and by making a committed choice to buy American, when there are so many cheap Chinese alternatives available, you are providing opportunity to the wonderful men and women — and their families — who work at the plant.
As a coworker, past or present, you’ve done your part to help start, grow, and maintain the company, responding to the needs of our customers.
We have a special team. With our large machines, we can mold things that very few companies on this planet can — many blow molding companies can make small and mid-size products but not many can go big, which speaks to the big ideas, big muscles, and big hearts of everyone on our team.
For many items, customers choose us, even with our higher domestic costs, because of the quality provided in products and services, which reflects the quality of you. There’s incredible pride to have in what you’ve done — for too many decades society frowned upon the value of blue collar factory jobs, and maybe you took some heat for that, but now, it’s finally fashionable again to make things here in America ,,, Society has remembered that you are the essential workers, just as we’ve always known.
As a member of the community, you may not realize it but in direct and indirect ways you’ve made this possible, too.
You welcomed us to North Tonawanda and Wheatfield and treated us as neighbors and critical parts of your towns. Everyone, as local, state, and federal taxpayers, invested in the roads that move our products, the courts that allow us to fight patent infringements, the schools that educate our coworkers, the fire and police to protect property and people, and the infrastructure that gets utilities to us.
Businesses, just like citizens, always grumble about taxes, but our taxes are, for the most part, wisely spent. Just look at the blizzard that hit Niagara County during Christmas for an example of that.
Our half of the county was buried, but city, county, town, state, and federal personnel — and volunteers and private sector enterprises — cleaned up everything in timely fashion, saved lives, prevented crises, and made it business as usual in less than two days. We do business from a pretty special place: This city, this state, this great big country of ours.
It’s because of you that we’ve weathered the economic storms that are much like that blizzard. Everyone one of you — as those who buy, those who work, those who serve — has contributed in your own way to our fiftieth.
You’re what makes it so rewarding. You’re what keeps us going. You’re what makes us take risks and make investments.
There’s something incredibly magical and meaningful about being able to live the American Dream because of you and then return that favor to others so they, too, can chase their own dreams — whether it’s through providing them products to enjoy their backyards or waterways, jobs to care for their families, or the taxes and donations to improve the community.
Thank you for 50 years.
It’s been awesome. Just like the next 50 will be.
Bob Confer is a Daily News columnist and president of Confer Plastics. He can be reached at email@example.com. You can follow him on Twitter @bobconfer.