When Standard & Poor’s officially downgraded the U.S. credit rating on Friday, several conversations ran through my mind. One was with Vivek Gupta, managing director at Texas ProFab, a Dallas-area fabricator, who told me how conservative the company’s balance sheet was, and how the small firm built relationships with larger suppliers by always paying early. The small job shop perhaps didn’t order as much metal as larger manufacturers did, but it always paid on time.
I also recalled Jeff Cupples, vice president of engineering and estimating at Cupples J&J Co., a Jackson, Tenn., contract fabricator. As Cupples explained, "My father [company founder James Cupples] has not borrowed anything since 1979,” when the company moved to its current location in Jackson. “He borrowed $50,000 to build the building. It drove him crazy. He doesn't like to owe anybody. He's a child of the Depression; things could always get worse. So within a few years he paid for the building, and he hasn't borrowed anything since.”