Jiffy Mix: capitalism does not HAVE TO be predatory or anti-family.

I don’t really know much about economics but I’ve been quietly following along and thinking about the discussion of usury* happening on various blogs I read.  I do know that materialism and lifestyle striving have replaced kinship and community, but the blame for some of this mess rests at the feet of the leaders of large corporations for their predatory form of capitalism that is always looking for a way to squeeze one more penny out of humanity.

Capitalism doesn’t have to look like that.  A very wealthy elite has rigged the game in their favor, but it could look differently.  Consider this story about a local Chelsea company whose products you might even have on your shelf: Jiffy Mix.

The factory is located right in downtown Chelsea, and it’s almost ridiculously pristine and wholesome-looking for a factory.  It’s always freshly painted and neat and tidy.  Yeah, their products are pretty cheap…I don’t often use them personally since I like to bake from scratch.  But read this article:

Michigan-based Jiffy Mix plans $35 Million dollar expansion

The owner is the fourth-generation of his family to own Chelsea Milling and…his name is Howdy.  How can you not like a president named Howdy? And I love the fact that they very purposefully do not advertise at all.  But here is the best part of the story:

The expansion of production capacity does not mean Holmes will be going on a big hiring spree. The machinery that will be installed in the new mixing tower will be much more automated than the mid-20th-century tools used to churn out the retail products.

“We’re probably going to go from about 315 employees to about 240, but we’ll be producing up to seven times as much product,” Holmes said.

“But we’re going to do that without doing any layoffs because we’ve been smart about it.”

Holmes said the reason these plans weren’t executed 20 years ago is that about half the workforce is now approaching retirement age.

“We could have done this and forced people out of their jobs, but that’s not how we wanted to do it,” he said. “So now we’re starting the process and as many of these people retire we simply won’t be hiring to fill their positions.”

So they could have modernized their factory and increased production and profits twenty years ago but purposefully didn’t do so just so that they wouldn’t have to lay off their workers who were probably too old to find new jobs.  Contrast that with most other corporations you know.

This story hits close to home for me because not only do I live in Chelsea, but when I was a kid, my father lost his factory job when the factory closed up shop suddenly and moved to a cheaper labor market.  Our family went from working class to desperately poor pretty quickly.  My dad found work on the dairy farms that existed in Caledonia back then, but it wasn’t enough to support a family by any means.  Anyone who has read me for a while has already heard the tales of my teenaged years – We had no heat!  The electricity kept getting shut off for non-payment!  The government cheese was yucky and gross! – so I won’t torture you with them again.

But hearing Howdy Holmes say that he could have squeezed more revenue out of his company but chose not to do so – chose to be content with the profits he was already making – so as not to throw older workers and their families into abject poverty – is touching enough to me that I suddenly have a yen for some cheap cornbread made from a box mix.

* A few places you can read about the ongoing conversation on usury are:

Zippy Catholic (lots of posts on usury, but start here: Usury FAQ, or money on The Pill)

The Thinking Housewife (see her post: On Debt Theft for starters)

Hawaiian Libertarian:( Identifying the Root So We May Strike It)

They don’t all agree with each other, but it is interesting to read their various perspectives, especially for someone like me who knows little about the subject.