Here's the latest installment of the SmallBiz Mailbag, a collection of some of the most recent and thought-provoking letters sent to our Feedback section. We want to hear from you, about which stories made you think, and what issues affect your small business.
Big Companies in Small-Biz Clothing
I read your report on small outfits bidding for government contracts. Our company has been in business for 50 years, and we recently made samples for the Army and Navy under the small-business category. We submitted prices and references to both agencies, and after much correspondence, were told we had been turned down. (The Army contract was for 10 million jackets and 10 million trousers, while the Navy contract was smaller.)
My firm exists today only because of our reputation for quality and on-time delivery that is unsurpassed. So to be turned down was something of a disappointment. But after reading your article about who gets the contracts, I realized I shouldn't be.
Rome Street Apparel
With Zoom, More Vroom on Roads?
Interesting article. I know public safety agencies are keen on gathering more information rapidly and automatically, especially as interest in homeland security continues to grow. It's good to know that a Hoosier company is at the forefront of some new and potentially valuable technology.
Unfortunately for Mike Fritsch and the folks at Zoom, this has been tried before. In fact, an entire industry called telematics was born in the late 1990s to exploit what was seen as a multibillion-dollar opportunity. Today, that "industry" is essentially dead, and the billion-plus dollars of venture capital that drove it are largely gone.
The survivors of the telematics boom-bust experience, as well as big auto suppliers such as Delphi (DPH) -- right down the road from Zoom in Kokomo, Ind. -- and yes, even Uncle Sam with 511, have been doing for years the things that Zoom apparently failed to mention to the good folks at the Indiana 21st Century Research & Technology Fund.
Perhaps the main reason that real-time traveler information hasn't taken off as a service in the U.S. is that America stopped building roads a long time ago. The U.S. vehicle fleet is 50% larger than 20 years ago, while vehicle miles traveled have grown more than 80% during that span. And the increase in new roads? Just 2.3%.
In most cities, traffic jams are the norm not because commuters are stupid. It's because there's nowhere else to go!
New York, N.Y.
Mike Fritsch's comments that traffic information from a helicopter is delayed by 15 minutes to a half-hour is a stretch. That information is relayed live to listeners as it's happening.
My experience in more than 20 years of traffic reporting is that the delay is in the collection of data from sensors, and the time it takes for the software to extrapolate delay times. I've found that you have to look at a traffic jam with an educated eye to get information that's reasonably accurate - and current data collection capability is just not there yet.
San Diego, Calif.
Resting with the Fish -- Forever
Frankel has touched on a subject that takes place in many Hindu families here in U.S. - where, when, and how to scatter the ashes of the loved ones? This is a lucrative venture and sounds feasible to me.
Lake In The Hills, Ill.
How a Toy Store Plays to Win
I loved this article. As a small-business owner myself, it was great to read about a successful woman entrepreneur who was beating the odds. I hope the publicity helped her business.
Jamie R. Lentzner
Jamie's Painting & Design
Foster City, Calif.
We welcome comments, opinions, ideas, and tips from our readers. Please contact BW Online's SmallBiz via our Feedback link. Please note: We'll edit published letters for space and clarity.