Truck Stop Research

by Roger Pynn

We had just finished a presentation to a potential client with massive land holdings that wrap around numerous rural communities … towns as simple as Sheriff Andy Taylor’s Mayberry in many ways, but we assured them as complex and sophisticated as any urban center.

We’d talked about the importance of due diligence … the process of knowing … before ever thinking about seeking to do anything with their land that may be perceived to change those communities’ way of life or need their approval for such new use.

On the way home we stopped for lunch at an interstate truck stop café (by the way, always the place to stop for real food) and saw first hand a reminder of how the due diligence process works. It was a deja vu moment reminiscent of the many days over the years that we’ve sat in small town diners and learned what really matters to townsfolk.

If you want to know where this economy is headed, who is really being affected by what’s happening on Wall Street, you won’t find it on Main Street as fast as you’ll find it at The Country Café off Interstate 75 at Wildwood in Florida.

The young truck driver who sat down in the booth behind us, after scanning the menu, gestured to the manager and quietly said, “You know me and you know I spend a lot of money here but I’m tapped out.”

“Just go to the buffet,” said the manager. It made you want to give the manager the 2008 Award for Customer Service and Compassion. There were no other words. It was that simple.

The grateful driver – a gregarious and friendly guy – quickly engaged us and wanted to know what we do and whether business was good in public relations. “Tougher than usual but good,” was the reply. But his response was a story of truckers losing jobs every day because goods aren’t selling and producers aren’t shipping because there’s no place for inventory. “Guys who own rigs are losing them. Doesn’t matter if gas has been cut nearly in half. They’re going out of business.”

So how and when will the bailout help this guy? What will it cost for him to be out of work? He doesn’t even want one of those homes with inflated prices and a mortgage no one should ever have given him. “All I want is three acres, a double wide and big high-wheel pickup.”

You don’t necessarily need to conduct statistically accurate sampling to find out how people feel. Often you just need to listen.

One Response to Truck Stop Research

  1. stangle says:

    Ahhh…the truck stop cafe. Where one can enjoy fresh fried chicken, a side of mash potatoes and finish with gummy bears.

    I have enjoyed many truck stop dinners in my short 28 year life, the last was around this time last year driving with my dad from Pierre, South Dakota to Omaha, Nebraska. When we walked in we were warmly greeted by the lady behind the counter of the convenient store half of the building and she happily show us to an open table. The place was empty except for a few local men enjoying a couple of cigarettes and a cup of coffee. I remember talking to my dad about my job and the slow down of construction and the industry expecially the housing construction.

    When I first entered the civil engineering business I was fresh out of school with no experience. The housing construction and property values were going bananas. I worked on several big development projects and all that could be talked about at owner meetings was who is holding the project up and why can’t the project be finished quicker. I knew right away there was going to be a serious issues like we are in now.

    I think as a human race we are the greediest species on the planet. All we want is more. More money, more toys, more success but don’t get me wrong I know this drives production over all success but it also fogs the lenses and we drive off the road and over the cliff.

    In my opinion, the government should have stepped in a few years ago and really cooled the housing market to bring things back down to reality. When times are good nobody wants to listen for the freight train coming to plow down the high that everyone is riding.

    My mom and dad have taught me many lessons in life and one I really take to heart. “The road can sometimes be bumpy, keep a steady head and always have a tight grip but if you fall off get up as fast a possible to see what is coming at you next.”

    Oh yeah, good land development projects start with a Great Civil Engineer.

    Thomas Stangle, P.E.

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