Let’s say you run a local company that has just experienced sales growth of about 30% in the last few years–business is booming! Orders keep coming in, including many specialized or custom orders, and everyone in the company is scrambling, working almost around the clock, and “hitting on all cylinders” just to keep up.
In this business scenario, would now be the time to put plans in motion to downsize the company, cut back on operations, stop taking orders and scale back to offer a limited line of products or services? Are you kidding? Doesn’t make sense.
Yet that is exactly what is being asked of Fox Valley Technical College right now by way of the proposed State Biennial Budget for 2011-13. And the business scenario above is exactly our organization’s scenario.
The College’s executive team and I have been working on how we are going to close about a $6 million budget gap in each of the next two years given that two of our three primary revenue sources (state funding and local tax levy authority) are proposed to be severely restricted. The third funding source comes from student tuition, which is also regulated at the State level.
Yesterday someone mentioned to me that businesses have had to do this now for several years. I’m keenly aware that the economy has really struggled the last few years. But businesses were cutting back because sales were down, orders were sluggish, inventories were more than adequate to meet demand, and customer activity was slow. We know all too well that they were tightening their belts, as the students who have made up most of the College’s 30% growth in last few years were a direct result of the business and economic slowdown. Local companies’ former and current employees have been spending a lot of time with us retraining or gaining new skills to be competitive in this market.
FVTC is inextricably tied to the region’s business climate and the region’s workforce…in good times and bad. If demand for our services was down, skill levels of the adult working population were where they need to be, we could not fill programs and classes, or our graduates were not getting jobs, we should be making serious adjustments and cutting back. But does scaling back our operations in light of booming demand really make good business sense? And how will it support the region’s employers when they are ready to grow and expand their businesses again?