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Five Pros and Cons of Self-Driving Vehicles

Is a self-driving car going to see your 67 Vette?

Will a self-driving car see your 67 Vette?

The future is now— or at least very, very near! Self-driving cars sound like an invention out of a science fiction movie, but they are in fact much closer to becoming a reality than you might think. Google, for example, has been working on an autonomous car project since 2009, and its driverless vehicles have clocked over 1.7 million miles on the road. Popular auto manufacturer Ford aims to mass-produce self-driving cars by 2021. What was once a futuristic fantasy is becoming more of a possibility with each passing year.

But are self-driving vehicles a good thing or a bad thing? While there is no certain consensus about the use of driverless cars, there are a number of arguments both for and against putting them on the roads en masse. Here are just a few of the many pros and cons of self-driving vehicles.

Self-driving Pros:

  1. No danger of human error. By running through complicated algorithms that determine stopping distance, distance from another vehicle, and other important vehicle operations, self-driving cars virtually eliminate the dangers of driving. Each year in the U.S., 5.5 million car crashes occur, resulting in 88 deaths per day. Eighty-one percent of those crashes are attributed to human error, a leading cause of which is simply distraction. Cars driven by computers, which don’t get distracted, would drastically lower the dangers presented by human drivers.
  1. Less congestion. With self-driving cars producing far less accidents, congestion on commutes could potentially be greatly lessened. In addition to less accidents clogging the roadway, all driverless vehicles would possess the ability to communicate with one another through signals, which would eliminate the need for traffic lights and frequent stops. A more synchronized driving pattern means getting to destinations faster, with less traffic headaches!
  1. Big savings for businesses. Without the need for human drivers, businesses could potentially save billions of dollars using self-driving vehicles. Because driving and speed are regulated by a computer, driverless cars— especially trucks used to transport products across the miles— will operate at their top fuel efficiency. Not only that, but driverless cars won’t need to stop for eating, sleeping, and other necessities like a human driver would, saving businesses both money and time. It’s been estimated that if only 20% of vehicles were driverless, it would result in an economic savings of $109.7 billion dollars, and in 724 million gallons of fuel savings!
  1. Better parking possibilities. Parking seems to be a problem almost any place where there are cars and people. Especially in very populated cities, the cost of parking can be exorbitant, not to mention the upkeep necessary to maintain multiple parking garage facilities and parking meters. With the help of self-driving cars, you’d no longer have to contend with parking woes; your car would drop you off at a location, and then find itself a parking spot farther away. With cars that can drive themselves until they find available parking spaces, less garage space would be needed to accommodate vehicles. Then when you’re ready to leave, your car would come right to you!
  1. More free time for humans. Think about how many minutes a day or hours per week you spend commuting to work, running errands, or otherwise traveling. Now imagine all the things you could do if even half that time was available to do as you pleased! Without the need for people to drive themselves, the time they spend in cars can now be spent on more valuable or leisurely activities like reading, watching movies, or finishing paperwork. And since driverless cars should theoretically get you to your destination faster, you also spend less time in the car each day, giving you more time for life off of the highway.

The Cons:

  1. Very expensive. Self-driving cars will require a lot more technology in order to function properly. While they sound like an awesome feat of vehicle innovation, that innovation comes with a high price tag. With the software, sensors, engineering, and computer function necessary to make a car self-driving, the current cost estimate to purchase one is over $100,000!
  1. Huge loss of jobs for drivers. In America alone, putting driverless cars on the road would mean the loss of over 5 million jobs. While businesses may see higher profits because they no longer need to employ human drivers, those drivers, making up 3% of the workforce, could fall on hard times with the loss of work. Drivers of trucks, taxis, public buses, vans, limousines, Uber, and more would see their jobs in jeopardy with the introduction of driverless vehicles.
  1. Implosion of insurance companies. While other businesses may see more money and higher savings using self-driving vehicles, one industry that would take a hit is the car insurance industry. With less risk of accidents and human error, insurance premiums would be significantly reduced— which is great for consumers but terrible for insurance companies. The personal insurance sector is estimated to shrink down by 60% of its current size within 25 years of self-driving cars hitting the market, meaning more huge job loss.
  1. Unknown fault in event of an accident. Another issue insurance companies would need to contend with is determining fault in the event of an accident. Though self-driving car accidents should be rare occurrences, even the best technology can still fail. Should an accident arise, the question becomes, who is at fault? Do you blame the car manufacturer, the owner of the car, the computer programmer, or some other party? While fault would most likely come to rest on the manufacturer, accident fault is still a gray area when it comes to driverless vehicles.
  1. Weather concerns. While driverless cars will be highly intelligent machines, one concern they may not be able to account for is adverse weather conditions. Because self-driving cars will rely on sensors to do much of their driving, they’ll be alerted to slow down in bad weather. However, if bad weather— whether heavy snow, hail, or even rain— knocks out a car’s sensors, there is currently no failsafe to prevent an accident in the face of technology failing. In addition, if a road is covered in snow, or visibility is reduced for some other reason, a self-driving car won’t be as readily able to detect its position on the roadway, resulting in a driving hazard. Bad weather conditions are one flaw in the autonomous car industry that still needs to be resolved.

Whether you hold with the pros or with the cons, it’s clear that self-driving cars are going to be a revolutionary auto development, in one way or another. What do you think about the future possibility of driverless vehicles?

Unusual Transportation Museums

It really shouldn’t be a surprise that we here at Backyard Buddy are huge fans of just about anything with an engine and wheels (or wings, or props). As we think about hitting the road in what’s left of the summer, we couldn’t avoid seeking out some of the more. . . interesting transportation collections across the United States.

If you’re reading this, there’s pretty good odds you’ve heard of the Petersen Auto Museum in Los Angeles (https://petersen.org/), the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit (https://www.thehenryford.org/visit/henry-ford-museum/), and maybe even the National Packard Museum right here in Warren Ohio (http://www.packardmuseum.org/), but this year, we’re thinking of digging deep and looking for someplace different.

Our first stop to see something unusual would be the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, TN (https://www.lanemotormuseum.org/). This museum has more than 500 unusual vehicles and features oddities like the Helicron–a wood-bodied French car that is powered by a four-foot propeller on the front of the vehicle. Other oddities include three-wheeled English BSA roadsters, a rocket-powered racer, and more post-war European micro-cars than you are likely to ever see in one place. The Museum also features a large number of foreign vehicles that were never available in the United States, and some very unusual prototype and small-production military and utility vehicles. If you can’t make it to Nashville, the Museum’s website has photos and a description of everything in their collection, and is worth spending a few minutes (or hours) to browse.

For those whose tastes are for the extremes of rugged and heavy, there’s the Military Vehicle Technology Foundation in Menlo Park, CA (http://www.mvtf.org/). The MVTF features more than 200 military vehicles from World War I, World War II and both sides of the Cold War, including tanks, personnel carriers, reconnaissance vehicles, self-propelled artillery, and various trucks, transports, and tractors. Some of the more interesting vehicles in the MVTF collection are the M8 Light Armored Car (a six-wheeled American mini-tank), the M88 Recovery Vehicle (a tow truck tank built to tow out-of-commission battle tanks), and the 2-Pounder Anti-Tank Gun Carrier (a hybrid of a tracked base with a 40mm anti-tank artillery piece mounted on its top).

The Volo Auto Museum near Chicago (http://www.volocars.com/the-attraction) takes uniqueness to the extreme, and features non-production and custom vehicles prominently in its collection. Its TV/Movie Cars exhibit includes multiple Batmobiles, KITT, Munsters cars, the Ghostbusters’ hearse, and even the Flinstones’ Flintmobile. The Bizarre Cars exhibit features a guitar-shaped dragster, a V8 barstool, and a grand piano car. If you’re looking for luxury, the Cars of the Rich and Famous exhibit has its fair share of Bentleys, Rolls Royces, and Lamborghinis. The Museum also displays monster trucks, bikes, campers, stagecoaches, tractors, and scooters. If your kids get bored (not that we think they would!), the Museum also has Disney and Warner Brothers exhibits, a vintage arcade, and a theater.

These three unique museums just scratch the surface of strange transportation collections. We know that there are few people more passionate than vehicle collectors, and they have collections of interesting vehicles in warehouses, barns, and garages across the United States.

If you’ve know a strange transportation museum or collection that you think we should feature, let us know in the comments!

As always, if you need a lift for your one-of-a-kind creation, or your millions-sold daily driver, Backyard Buddy has the best lifts you will find. Give us a call at (800) 837-9353 from 8:00 to 5:00 Eastern time so that we can help you find a solution for your unique needs.

Great vintage garage. Coll old parts and tools

6 Steps to Spring-Cleaning Your Garage

 

Spring is in full swing, with summer just around the corner.  Have you done all your spring-cleaning yet? One area of your home that might not get the overhaul it really needs is the garage. From camping equipment to trashcans to toolboxes, the garage can be a black hole of stuff that stacks up throughout the year.  If your car spends the night in the driveway or your have to clear a walking path through boxes of Christmas decorations, it’s time to spring-clean your garage.  Before the weather gets too hot, try these six spring-cleaning steps to clear out the clutter and make your garage useful again.

Take it all out. ALL of it.

If your garage is overrun with clutter— from garden tools to car accessories to kids’ toys— shifting your mess from the garage to the driveway can help you get started with a clean slate.  It may seem counterproductive to just move the clutter from the garage to the front lawn, but emptying the garage is helpful because: 1) it gives you more room to sort and organize, and 2) you can survey the space you have available, so you can plan your organization strategy. It also helps to start grouping things together as you remove them. Are your fishing poles tangled with the rakes? Are the flowerpots encroaching on the paint cans? Placing alike items together makes them easily accessible when you begin re-stocking the garage.

Get rid of what you don’t need.

According to This Old House, organizing professionals estimate that only 30% of people actually store their car in their garage! Why do the rest of the 70% park elsewhere? Too much stuff stuffed into the garage. When it comes to what should be stored in your garage, stick to things that you want to use over things you just want to keep. (Use the basement or attic for keepsakes!)  After you’ve moved your garage contents to the lawn, look over everything and get rid of the things you don’t need. A good rule of thumb is to toss anything you haven’t used in at least two years, and of course anything that just doesn’t work anymore. Bonus: since everything you’re getting rid of is already outside, plan a yard sale for some extra cash!

Get in the zone(s).

Once you’ve cut your clutter down to size, don’t immediately start packing everything back into the garage.  Here’s where a little tactical thinking can help make your garage more functional and organized.  With your remaining garage contents, separate your garage space into zones. A tool zone, a gardening zone, a sports equipment zone, a workspace zone— group together alike items in the same location for easy access, so you never have to look for your wrenches in the garden trowels ever again. Don’t forget the most important zone— the auto zone. With less stuff and a strategic floor plan, you can join the 30% who can fit their car into their garage!

Build storage up and out.

If you don’t have enough storage in your garage, there are a few quick additions you can make to maximize your newly zoned layout. Utilizing shelves and tall cabinets along the walls provides ample room to store smaller items and bins. Hooks and pegboard on the wall offer a way to neatly store tools, cables, and other items you want to keep readily available. A workbench that folds out of the wall gives you useable space that you can easily fold away when not in use. With a little handy work, it’s also possible to use what would otherwise be dead ceiling space for storage, with a system of sliding overhead bin caddies. As a final touch, break out the label maker and get all your bins and boxes labeled to quickly identify the contents.  Make a weekend project out of overhauling your garage space, and you’ll have a more efficient, manageable workspace slash garage

Put everything on wheels.

An ingenious organization tip from Popular Mechanics is “Everything on wheels!” If you routinely work in your garage, adding wheels to your equipment allows you to easily maneuver around, and re-organize as needed depending on your latest project.  Put caster wheels on your cabinets, chairs, benches, drill presses, and more to quickly move things around and— the ultimate goal— make more room for your car.

Buy a car lift for your garage!

Another way to maximize the available space in your garage is by installing a car lift! Whether you want to keep your classic car and your everyday autos in the same garage, or you have smaller vehicles to get out of the way when not in use, a car lift is a beneficial investment.  A car lift affords extended storage space, instantly doubling your storage capacity from one space into two. If you frequently work on your automobiles, you’ll also gain more access to work on your vehicles and in your garage.  A garage car lift like those from Backyard Buddy should be durable and versatile to safely store all kinds of vehicles.  In addition to cars, you can use a BYB lift to store trucks, ATVs, motorcycles, boat trailers, snowmobiles, and more.  Take advantage of the vertical space available, and create more possibilities to work within your garage with a freestanding residential car lift.

If your garage has accumulated enough junk to be the subject of an episode of Hoarders, it may seem like an arduous task to try getting the mess under control.  But starting with a plan to tackle this spring-cleaning project is the key to making your garage an organized workspace again. Take everything out, get rid of nonessentials, and then plan your strategy to organize and store your stuff.  For extra organization, try adding wheels to make equipment mobile, and install a car lift to optimize your available space.   With a little elbow grease, these six steps to spring-cleaning your garage will get rid of the clutter once and for all— and get your car back in its proper place!

Racing Time

One of our favorite parts of summer is laying on the couch on a warm Sunday and dozing off to the roar of the engines and the excitement in Darrell Waltrip’s voice with NASCAR on the TV. Somehow, we always end up dreaming about racing one of our own cars.

If you’ve ever had the same dream and want to do something about it, there are a lot of ways for you to test your mettle behind the wheel, no matter what you drive.

The easiest way to start is to find a local autocross event, usually offered under the auspices of the Sports Car Club of America (https://www.scca.com). You’re probably not going to be competitive in a bone stock Cruz, but if you’ve got a valid driver’s license, a helmet, and are OK risking knocking over some orange cones, you’re good to go. Since you’re only racing against the clock, any danger is minimized, and courses are  usually set up in large, empty parking lots with a big safety margin in mind. All you need to do to get started is find an event near you: https://www.scca.com/pages/find-your-fun.

The best part is that a day of racing is usually around $50, although that may be the most expensive $50 you ever spend, because you’ll want to make some improvements to your car for the next race (or start eying a new Ford Focus RS). Autocross classes run the spectrum from factory stock through various bolt-on modifications, to cars built specifically for autocross, so there is a class to match your level of interest, finances, and skill.

If you like your fun a little more on the dirty side, SCCA also holds timed solo dirt track rallycross racing. Just like in autocross, the tracks are set up on flat ground with safety in mind, and are open to stock daily drivers as well as cars with slight modifications (studded tires, custom suspensions), and custom rally racers.

Once you’ve got a little more confidence, the SCCA also offers head-to-head racing, although this requires a larger investment of time and money. You’ll need to be an SCCA member, pass a physical, and earn a racing license from a certified driver school event. You’ll also need a proper racing suit and other equipment, and will want to bring a friend or two that know how to wrench to be your pit crew. At this point, to be competitive you’ll need a dedicated car that has been modified to meet race rules (available here: https://www.scca.com/pages/cars-and-rules).

SCCA also offers special classes and races for vintage cars, karts (a great way to start kids in racing), and even custom built college team cars, although these can be harder to find.

Of course, if you’re more into pure muscle, there’s also amateur drag racing. You COULD pull up next to someone at a stoplight and give them the traditional rev and nod, but that tends to get expensive once the blue lights start flashing. Instead, if you’ve got a local race track, you’ve probably got an opportunity to see what your car can do in a quarter mile. While there is not a single organizing body like SCCA for drag racing, most local tracks offer an amateur race, and there is almost always an entry class requiring little more than a working seat belt and a helmet.

Since we wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t mention it, if you start racing and inevitably need to upgrade your car to compete, don’t forget to upgrade your garage with one of our Backyard Buddy lifts. As always, we are here at (800) 837-9353 from 8:00 to 5:00 Eastern time to help you find the lift that meets your needs. See you on the track!

Classics & Modern Cars — there’s more to it than meets the eye.

What drives a person to want to invest in American Classics? (Pun intended.)

There has been much discussion over the decades amongst car collectors, forum debaters, and  salesmen within the auto industry on the pros and cons of buying “American.” Depending on the product, angle of presentation and/or a person’s prejudices, answers may vary.
Regardless the angle or opinions you may have that has shaped your perspective on these cars, history tells a story that is worth repeating.

They have and continue to hold a unique place in the heart of car buyers for many reasons and patriotism isn’t their main incentive. While there isn’t one simple answer to this, a combination of factors play a part and some may surprise you!

A classic car has a story

A classic car has a story and for many, when they encounter a classic, history speaks: engine sounds, hand-crafted auto parts, genuine leather, uniqueness and style unparalleled by modern-day car finds. Before assembly lines and robots, cars were treasured and parts were thoughtfully and carefully made by hand. Designers and craftsmen were not hindered by constraints such as crash tests or aerodynamic drag coefficients. Instead, they were free to explore and reflect current trends and culture, delivering desirable and memorable treasures that could stand, and have stood, the test of time.

Mechanically, modern cars are quite different when it comes to car control and operation. Modern engines are now a sealed unit with components that are usually unserviceable by the average person. Advancements in technology have influenced car designers to embrace electrical systems that can now control steering, clutch usage, torque vectoring, and more.
While these systems seem to offer improvements on efficiency and safety, car character and uniqueness are really lacking. Older machines are intricate mechanical systems that function not off of pre-calculated driver aids installed within an electronic-brain, but in harmony with thousands of individual parts tuned to work together and dependent upon direct input from the driver. Today’s modern vehicle just can’t compete with this type of authentic driving experience.

One thing is for sure, getting a new car serviced can sometimes make you want to pull your hair out with the amount of money it can take to fix a problem! Take changing a fuel pump for example. What takes one person thirty minutes of work on a 1955 Chevrolet and $45 in parts might take multiple people and a lot more time to do on a 2006 Saturn. A complete assembly would be required because the gas-gauge sending unit is built-in and the fuel pump is located inside the gas tank which would have to be emptied and dropped in order to get to! The times have changed the way we take care of our cars and now due to complex engineering and electronic systems we usually have to pay someone else to get the job done.

Classic cars

Classic cars offer the driver and admirer personal experience, unique style, and an appreciation for true craftsmanship. All of which is hard to find in most modern cars manufactured by robots and in assembly lines for fast reproduction and quick money. While modern cars are safer, faster, more dependable, and more economical than the cars of the past, many classics have stood the test of time and have lived to tell about it, making car owners proud on many levels.
Your grand kids’ “classic car” will be a lot different than the ones in your Backyard Buddy Lift today. Soon the Chevrolet Stingray, will rest in your grandson’s garage taking the place of your 1969 Boss 429 Mustang, and it will be his most prized possession.

So when it comes to comparing classics and modern cars, you can see that “there’s more to it than meets the eye.”    Investing in or having a special interest in Classics goes beyond what many would say is a hobby. It’s a coveted experience that keeps driving us towards them and leaving us in awe of a different era and timeless memories packaged in steel, leather, and sounds.

Car Collection displayed on Backyard Buddy lifts

This classic car collector trusts Backyard Buddy

Most Underappreciated Classics to Consider This Spring

Spring is in the air, and if you’re like us, this is the time when a young (or not so young) man’s thoughts turn to buying a classic car to work on this summer.

We know that not everyone has a Shelby GT budget (or even a kit car Shelby budget), so we wanted to talk about some cars that get you a lot of oomph without draining your wallet. We’ve got to thank the folks over at Hagerty’s classic car insurance for their classic car valuation tool, which handled the numbers part of this list.

Some of their most undervalued classics are:

•    First Generation Mazda Miata (1989-97- $5,000): If you aren’t fooled by its reputation for cuteness (and don’t mind always having the top down if you’re over 6’2”), it’s hard to beat this little convertible. With tens of thousands still on the road 20 years after the original line was ended, you can still fix one fairly easily.
•    C5 Chevy Corvette (1997-2004- $15,000): Thanks to depreciation, it’s possible to own a Corvette for less than you’d pay for the most stripped down new econo-box. They’ve got some years on them now, but Corvettes are some of the most pampered cars on the road, so you’re likely to find a C5 model in great shape.
•    Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe (1984-88- $6.000): Even though it’s from the 80s, the T-bird Turbo Coupe feels like the child of a 1960s American muscle car and a European performance sedan, and was Motor Trend’s car of the year in 1987. 30 years later, these are a bit hard to find, but still fun to drive.
•    Porsche 914 (1969-1976- $12,000): While not a powerhouse like a modern 911, the 914 is often considered the pinnacle of lightweight, low-power design where the fun comes from nimbleness, not raw power. With a choice of a flat-four or flat-six air cooled engine and a distinctive body, it should come as no surprise that the 914 was designed as the replacement for Volkswagen’s iconic Karmann Ghia.
•    Studebaker Avanti (1962-1963- $20,000): The rarest car on this list, the Avanti was the swan song for a venerable American car maker. While it never captured the public imagination, the Avanti featured an innovative fiberglass body with looks that were 20 years ahead of their time, and a 240hp V8 that gave it plenty of muscle. If you can find one of the roughly 6,000 made, buy it and be the only guy you know who has one.
•    Volkswagen Corrado VR6 (1992-1995- under $5,000): Originally designed as a replacement for the Porsche 944, the Corrado VR6 packed nearly 200 horsepower into a sporty 2,800 pound car with German handling. If you can find one that hasn’t been destroyed by a teenage boy, and don’t mind the mysteries of VW electrical systems, you can get a lot of speed for a tiny bit of cash.

These are just the tip of the iceberg. If you do your homework and can be happy with a more obscure car, there are still plenty of deals to be had, particularly in late-classic-era cars (full sized convertibles from the late 60s to the mid 70s are a steal, especially if you know how to fix a top), oddball pickups and work trucks, cousins of classics (a ‘67 Mercury Cougar GT is thousands less than a comparable Mustang, but has almost the exact same specs), and professional cars (what’s cooler than tooling around in a late 60s station wagon turned ambulance?).

And remember, a Backyard Buddy lift can help you double the space in your garage while giving you a great platform to easily work on your new find. Give us a call and then get out there and look for your next treasure

Treat Yourself

Now that your Christmas shopping is done, it’s time to get yourself something nice

If you’re like most of our customers, you’ve just spent a lot of effort and money buying nice things for everyone but yourself. We have no doubt that you’re great at playing Santa, but now it’s time to think about getting yourself something nice, something that will make it easier to work on your hobby, take care of the family car, or keep your garage organized this winter.

Since you’re on our site, you can probably guess what we’re about to suggest: This winter, make your life better with a Backyard Buddy lift.

For hobbyists, a Backyard Buddy lift is a great way to remove some of the less-than-enjoyable parts of working on your vehicle. You can trade in laying on a cold garage floor and hoping your jack stand holds up while you work on the underside of your vehicle for sitting or standing while you work. You’ll never want to use a creeper again once you’ve installed an exhaust system while sitting on a stool, or replaced your brakes at eye level.

If you live in a snowy climate like we do, a Backyard Buddy lift can help keep you out of the freezing slush and cold water that comes in with your car any time you need to make a repair to your daily driver. Just put it on the lift and let the snow drip off at your feet. No more soaked-through back and knees while working.

Even if you’re not planning to work on your car in the winter, a Backyard Buddy lift can make your life easier. Our vehicle lifts can help you get back valuable real estate in your garage, and are safe enough for you to lift your vehicle out of the way and put mowers, bikes, snow blowers, garden supplies, and other garage clutter under all winter long. Drive up onto your lift, lift your vehicle to the ceiling, and enjoy brand new floor space.

We also have a special boat lift that is specifically designed to accommodate most 102 inch boat trailers. Your boat can spend the winter on the lift and your car can have some garage space back to keep it out of the snow. We also offer a solid deck for our 7,000 pound capacity lifts so that you can store ATVs, jet skis, snowmobiles, lawn tractors, or other mid-sized items on our lifts.

Backyard Buddy also offers a variety of lift accessories to make your life even easier. Our caster set allows you to move our lifts around, even with a vehicle on them. Combine our casters with our crane accessory and you can pick up and drop engines into your vehicle, move heavy objects around your garage, and even pull a body off of a frame for painting or body work. Our hydraulic jacks allow you to raise the front or rear of your vehicle off of the lift with the flip of a switch so that you can comfortably work on your wheels or brakes. If you’d rather use your own jack, our jack platforms easily roll along the length of the lift and support any kind of jack (including our two-ton air jack).

Now that your Christmas shopping is done, it’s time to get yourself something nice. Give us a call at (800) 837-9353 any time between 8:00 and 4:30 EST, and we will help you customize a gift to yourself that will make you happy for years.  Merry Christmas!

Support Small Businesses

Backyard Buddy as a small business

Looking around our factory floor and seeing the intricate dance of workers and machines, you may find it hard to think of Backyard Buddy as a small business, but on a global scale — and compared to some of our foreign competitors — we definitely are.

We don’t say this as something we’re in a hurry to change.

Small businesses, which for our sector is those with fewer than 1,500 employees, are one of the largest drivers of the American economy. The economic recovery since 2009 has been almost completely reliant on small businesses, including people who are self-employed. According to the U.S. Small Business Association, businesses like Backyard Buddy, with less than 500 employees, were responsible for 74% of the jobs created since our economic recovery began in 2009.

Unfortunately, you’d never know this unless you dig deep into the media. Most economic reporting focuses on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (mostly made up of the largest companies in the world) and the S&P 500 (made up of 500 large companies). While both of these are showing positive signs, it is companies like Backyard Buddy, and thousands of other small businesses that are quietly driving our recovery, creating jobs, and making sure the American economy stays strong.

Why does this affect you?

If you’re an American, and you’ve got the device and internet connection to read this, you’re part of the American economy. In a very real way the economic growth provided by small businesses is one of the reasons that you have a job (and by the numbers, your job is likely to be at a small business) and can provide for your family. Even if you’re retired and think this doesn’t apply to you, your pension or investments depend on the continued growth of our economy, driven by small business.

If that’s too esoteric for you, consider that small businesses are better for the consumer. In our case, we’re able to make a better product than our competitors because our business model needs to be centered on a quality product and happy customers. We don’t have or want the capacity to make our living on getting junk products out the door as fast as possible.

In addition to a better product, customers get better service at a small business, where the person you’re talking to on the phone or in the store probably has detailed knowledge of the product or service that they sell, and in many cases has made the product themselves. Thanks to the global economy and manufacturers controlling prices of their products, you will often pay the same for something purchased from a local business as you would from a multinational big box chain, and get the added benefit of service, something almost impossible to find in chains.

Still looking for more reasons, maybe something nobler? When you buy from an American small business, your money stays in your country, and in many cases right in your community. Small businesses are also far more likely to then also spend that money in your community, either through paying salaries to local residents, or investing it back into the business. When you buy from a global business, your money almost always leaves the U.S. and far too often ends up in an offshore bank account where it pads the company’s cash reserves or just makes a wealthy person wealthier.

As the holiday season approaches, we ask that you spend your hard-earned money at small businesses to not only give someone in your life a gift, but to give all of us the gift of a strong community, a strong job market, and a strong national economy.

To find small businesses in your community (for everything other than vehicle lifts and accessories, which you know exactly where to find), check out this searchable map from the American Express Shop Small program: https://shopsmallnow.americanexpress.com/shopsmall.

Let’s Work Together

I don’t know about you, but if I never see another political ad again, I’ll die a happy man.  This was one of the most tumultuous presidential elections I’ve ever witnessed, and I’ve been around for a little while.  Whichever side of the aisle you stand, you have to admit that there was far too much negative rhetoric being hurled at the other side.

The result of this election stunned “the establishment,” shocked the mainstream media, and left the pundits asking, “How could we have been so wrong?”  Even The New York Times’ publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr. admitted the paper failed to appreciate Donald Trump’s appeal.  He is quoted as saying, “After such an erratic and unpredictable election there are inevitable questions: Did Donald Trump’s sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters?”

He’s not the only one asking those questions.  And there are a large number of people who are pretty damn angry about him winning.  But the Electoral College spoke volumes on election night; it was a sea of red.  Our president-elect is a candidate who appealed to Americans who felt unheard.  He listened.  They voted.

I employ nearly 30 hard-working, blue collar workers; many who have families to support.  During this economic decline; they’ve had no voice.  I stumbled on an explanation of this year’s presidential election outcome by Mike Rowe, former host of “Dirty Jobs” on The Discovery Channel.  He wrote a Facebook post comparing Trump’s White House win to his 2003 “Dirty Jobs” pilot on The Discovery Channel.  His reasoning sure makes sense to me.

This is an excerpt from a November 11, 2016 article in The Washington Times, titled, “Mike Rowe Explains the Real Reason Donald Trump Won” —

“It wasn’t pretty or careful. It took place in sewers and septic tanks, and featured a subversive host in close contact with his 8-year-old inner child who refused to do second takes,” the 54-year-old wrote. “Everyone agreed that Dirty Jobs was totally ‘off-brand’ and completely inappropriate for Discovery. Everyone but the viewers.

“Dirty Jobs didn’t resonate because the host was incredibly charming. It wasn’t a hit because it was gross, or irreverent, or funny, or silly, or smart, or terribly clever,” he continued. “Dirty Jobs succeeded because it was authentic. It spoke directly and candidly to a big chunk of the country that non-fiction networks had been completely ignoring. In a very simple way, Dirty Jobs said ‘Hey — we can see you,’ to millions of regular people who had started to feel invisible. Ultimately, that’s why Dirty Jobs ran for eight seasons. And today, that’s also why Donald Trump is the President of the United States.”

You see, the silenced finally found a voice; they found someone willing to listen.  Celebrity elitists just don’t represent a majority of the electorates.  (Have any of them packed up and moved out yet?)

There are lots of angry people out there; some of them are still protesting.  And because they live in this country, they have that First Amendment right – the rights that allow us to march in the streets, to worship freely, and to share our thoughts through blogs like this one.

Speaking to supporters at a victory celebration, Trump said it best, “It’s time for America to bind the wounds of division.  I say it is time for us to come together as a united country.”

I agree. Let’s start working together.

Stand Up, America

It’s obvious that there’s a lot of turmoil going on in America right now. In the past few years, we’ve seen riots over race and officer-involved shootings, an extremely divisive presidential race, and a growing feeling that something’s just not right.

At Backyard Buddy, we’re proud to be a business that is keeping Ohio’s strong manufacturing tradition alive. We’re proud of our commitment to building our lifts and accessories using American-made raw materials assembled by American workers. But what we’re most proud of is what we all are: American.

One of the core, fundamental values of being an American is that we are all responsible to and for our country. We are all in this together. This is our country, and together with our fellow citizens, we will keep her strong and work to solve any problems that we run into along the way. This spirit has kept our country strong even through a Civil War that almost tore us permanently apart, and through all of the ups and downs over the past 240 years. Even though we are facing some tough issues right now, every one of us should be proud to be American, and committed to working together for our future, even if there are many different visions of that future.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels this way. This summer and fall, we’ve seen athletes from the NFL to high school teams, and even American Olympians taking a knee for the national anthem. While we respect everyone’s right to free speech, this is a deliberately disrespectful act and we cannot support those who do it. Our flag and our anthem are symbols of the rights and duties that each and every one of us has as an American, and disrespecting them is disrespecting all of us, especially the veterans who fought and died for everything these symbols stand for.

We understand that the people doing this may feel that they don’t have a voice, but they are wrong. Each of us has a voice. Our collective voice is heard every time we vote. Our individual voices are heard through a free press, and thanks to the internet, everyone can share their opinion with the rest of the country. If we want to commit to deeper change, any one of us can participate in local politics by attending and speaking at local government meetings, or even running for office. In most places, running for local elective office is far easier than people think, and often only requires that you be well-respected in the community.

One of the greatest things about being an American is that each and every one of us has the power to change our country, but none of us can do it alone. We can organize our neighbors to change a neighborhood. We can work with others to change an entire city. A select 44 of us have inspired their peers to be given the honor of helping change the entire country.

Instead of protesting the symbols of our country, those who want to change it the most should celebrate that they are given the opportunity to do just that. No matter how much you disagree with what may be happening, stand tall and proud that you are an American, and that you have the power to create the change you want to see.