As HuffPost continues its coverage of Americans struggling to recover from the recession, we are asking for stories from our readers to be featured on our Third World America section. The following is a guest article from from Curt MacRae, a Michigan father who was forced to shut down his 15-year-old business and file for bankruptcy. While looking for work he runs workshops that help other unemployed people jump-start their careers.
"I closed a 15-year-old equipment leasing company in late 2008 because of changes in banking appetites. Banks quit lending, and since we acted as a broker for our 3,000 customers, our business went down approximately 75 percent. Add to that the cost of operating a business building, health care for my employees and the increasing write-offs from my own customers and I was forced to close and lay off my four remaining employees. Personal guarantees on my business credit forced me into a personal bankruptcy and I started searching for work at age 58.
Three years ago we were "upper-middle" class and had been there for 25 years. I had grown up in a lower-middle class family, where my father was a mail carrier and my mother worked part-time and raised the kids. I was the first in our family to get a college degree, and I had to finance it on my own. My two kids were the second and third in the family to get college degrees. Today, we have almost no income, so I guess that makes us "lower-class."
In early 2009, I started doing workshops for out-of-work people. It started with fellow church members, and has expanded to people I don't know who have simply heard of the workshops which we call "Get-To-Workshops." I write as well and have two columns posted online -- here and here -- about job searching. I sometimes speak to other groups, or guest on podcasts to try and help people. I do this because it is important to others and helps my own state of mind.
I still love to work, and I have the capability to do important work, but people don't like my age, and most aren't thrilled with entrepreneurs although I'm not sure why. It is embarrassing to go from owning and running a business and employing 5-10 people to having to search for any kind of meaningful work and wondering if I might have to start delivering pizzas.
I had one terrific offer, and another with strong interest, until I mentioned that my credit had taken a hit; the offer and interest went away. One company has been telling me for over a year that they want to hire me; they haven't...yet. I am considering job opportunities in other states, but I have a wife of 37 years, two grown kids and my first grandchild nearby. If we were to sell our Michigan home, it would bring $160,000 less than it would have four years ago.
I still manage to work 50-60 hours a week, but now that work is in doing workshops for others, trying to get an occasional lease approved, writing, and searching for something meaningful for myself. If anyone who reads this wants an experienced, hard-working, versatile manager, please have them contact me; they'll get ten years, at least, out of me.
My kids worry about us. My 86-year-old parents worry about us. We worry about us. We keep hearing that things have turned around, but we don't see it; certainly we don't see it in Michigan. We see no shortage of people who sign up for my workshops and we see constant greed and corruption on the news. All we are looking for is an opportunity.
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