Working through a rough economy

Dan Grech Oct 24, 2007

Working through a rough economy

Dan Grech Oct 24, 2007


Doug Krizner: The subprime mess has put the brakes on the U.S. economy. When growth slows, many businesses face challenges. For others, things move into high gear. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Marketplace’s Dan Grech has the story of one company doing well in the downturn.

Dan Grech: Liberty Power sells cut-rate electricity to businesses in 15 states. When the economy was booming, a few bucks off a utility bill could be a tough sell.

Eliezer Hernandez: Businesspeople are looking at those few bucks very differently now. They’re taking calls that they might have not been so willing to take when the market was humming.

That’s Liberty Power’s co-founder, Eliezer Hernandez. He says growth has been particularly strong with small businesses.

Take a small clothing store with a 10 percent profit margin. It can trim $500 from its annual electricity bill, or generate $5,000 in new sales. Both have the same impact on the store’s bottom line.

David Hernandez is Liberty Power’s CEO:

David Hernandez: Now, what you’re seeing is some belt-tightening. And that’s where a company like ours, and other businesses that bring a new product or new idea, will get an audience.

The downturn has created new opportunities for firms that help cut costs, or retrain laid-off workers, or sort out the legal mess when business sours.

The Fort Lauderdale-based Liberty Power, which was doing well before the slump, was recently named the fastest-growing Hispanic-owned business in the country.

As mortgage banks and realtors cut staff, that unleashes a lot of talent. Just ask Liberty Power’s HR director Carol Rochford — if you can catch her between interviews.

Carol Rochford: Yes that’s my phone, and now my Blackberry’s going off. So yes, I’ve got recruiting companies calling me, too. So, I’m kept very busy, that’s for sure.

Grech: Is that your phone again?

Rochford: Yes! Sorry.

Cheryl Smith was recently hired as a marketing manager. She came from Home Bank, a 1,200 person mortgage company that folded earlier this year.

Cheryl Smith: It’s quite frightening, actually, to think that this was a substantial organization, and then now there’s nothing there.

More businesses could disappear if the U.S. falls into a recession. And that could hurt Liberty Power. After all, companies don’t use any electricity when their doors are closed.

In Fort Lauderdale, I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

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