INDUSTRIAL SECRETIVENESS AS A BAR TO EMPIRE DEVELOPMENT
[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR,—We know that the British Commonwealth is now passing through one of the greatest crises in its history, and the fact that it is an economic one makes it the more vital that it should emerge from it with complete success. Anything less than complete success means decadence and disaster. Britain is no longer the workshop of the world, nor is she the greatest manufacturer; that position having passed very defi- nitely to the United States: Britain is fighting a magnificent battle to pay off an immense debt, which is not really 'hers. Some may think her stand quixotic, but it is certainly, to the last degree, honourable. For this, and other reasons, she has immense goodwill abroad, particularly among her daughter. nations.
In North America there is a geological formation of vast area, often referred to as the " Laurentian Shield." It is one of the greatest storehouses of mineral wealth in the world. Of this :licit. 95 per cent. is in Canada and 5 per cent. in the United States, and the minerals which the United States has extracted from its small share are to be counted by thousands of millions of tons. Coupled with this Laurentian Shield are Canada's vast possibilities of hydro-electric povier. Canada is known to have a capacity, which, with storage-baiiins for regulating the flow, would easily reach 41 millions of horse- power. Already she stands second only to the U:S.A. in turbine horse-power installation. On a per capita basis she has about five times the installation Of the United States. Because of these and other reasons conservative economists believe that Canada is destined to contain one, if not two, of the greatest industrial areas of the world. Iti the achievement of this, Canadians, of both languages; would prefer the help of British brains and capital. There is a big opportunity for the great financial and manufacturing interests of Great Britain to develop the latent possibilities of Canada and -the other Dominions. _
Can the manufacturers in Great Britain rise to the occasion
and do their part ? I have come across one Canadian manu- facturer who, because of treatment received by him from manufacturers in Britain, is of opinion that the majority of them have not got the necessary progressiveness, foresight or co-operative spirit to take the lead in such a great movement. He is a man in his prime, of the deepest loyalty to the British Flag, and served in the Air Force in France. He is the pre- sident of one of the most up-to-date and most prosperous manufacturing concerns in Canada. Its capital is $2,500,000. Be went on a visit to Britain last year but one, armed with numerous and influential letters of introduction, with the idea of interviewing British manufacturers in his own lines and seeing their works, with a view to arranging as much co- operation as possible between them and Canadian manufacturers.
He was prepared to exchange ideas, to make contracts, to plan joint sales-campaigns, and to work in the closest harmony with manufacturers in the Old Country. His intention was to help forward the trade of the British Commonwealth, and especially that of Britain and Canada. With few exceptions his experiences were most unfortunate, and he was cold- shouldered. Despite his introductions, his usual experience was to be refused access to the works, because those who had the authority to allow him to view them were away, and would not be back for some time. As he told me about the uniform secrecy regarding the interiors of their works, he laughed and asked, " What had they all to hide which I could have found out by a walk through their plants ? " Now it is the custom in Canada and the U.S.A. to welcome the inspection of plants by duly accredited persons. Any man, such as my Mend, has only to present his card during business hours at any works in his line in the United States which I would remind my readers is a foreign country to a Canadian, for him to be admitted readily by the senior official in charge, and to be shown over with the utmost courtesy. If they have any secret departments, they are simply passed by.
The worst impression my friend got, however, was that British manufacturers in the older industries were content so long as they received sufficient income from their businesses to allow of their imitating the ways of the landed gentry. But he specifically exempted the motor car, radio, aeroplane and other newer industries from this charge. He summed up the situation with the following words : " When I went to Britain, it was the Empire first and Canada second, but I saw that the British manufacturers were too busy trying to carry on their own business in their own insular way to care what happened to Canada and other parts of the Empire. I saw that in the future it must be Canada first and the Empire second." Unfortunately, his is not the only case. If this effect has been produced on men of undoubted loyalty, what has been the effect on men whose loyalty has halted between two opinions ? Whether this attitude of British manufacturers is general or not one cannot say. I would like to find that these unfortunate experiences were exceptional, but even as excep- tions they are harmful enough, and I am afraid that they are not exceptions.
The stand taken-up by men such as my friend, to which I humbly subscribe, is that British manufacturers throughout the British Commonwealth, and especially in Britain, must realize that, just as in the crisis of the World War men were prepared, to sacrifice themselves and die for the Empire and all for which it stands, so it is their duty in the crisis of this great Economic World War to do their utmost to save the Empire and its ideals. This is no time for British manufilc- turers to be cold or distant to their fellow-citizens from other parts of the Empire, or to be neglectful of the possibilities of Empire trade, or to ignore the ambitions and aspirations of the peoples of the Dominions, which, coupled with the tre- mendous natural resources they possess, will undoubtedly make the Dominions' total of manufactured goods exceed that of the Motherland within a few years.
A Canadian works-manager told me that in a certain Cana- dian town, which has upwards of a hundred branch factories from the U.S.A. and Britain, it is the rule for the American to have excellent organization and good costing systems, and for the British to have poor organization and costing systems. He told me that as a rule the American businesses are extending and the British standing still. The Americans put in Cana- dian managers, whilst in many cases the British send out men apparently appointed because of their family connexions, who wait for the trade to come to them.
May I close with the following quotation from " H. N. M.," writing in McLean's Magazine of October 15th, 1929, on Inter-Empire Trade : " What is needed more than anything else is a trade conference at which Canadians, talking as business-men to business-men, can impress the British manu- facturer with the fact that Canada's future must be built upon the manufacture of her raw materials here (in Canada), and the sale of those manufactures in the markets of the world?'
My friend who had the unfortunate experience in Britain has read over this letter and considers it a fair statement. —I
am, Sir, &c., R. R. TII0Bil'SON. 487 Argyle Avenue, Trestmount, P.Q., Canada.
[We fear there is much truth in Professor Thompson's remarks on the subject of the secretiveness of some British manufacturers. • A few weeks ago we heard from an unim- peachable source that one difficulty in seeking to work out a scheme of rationalization in a certain British industry was the great suspicion with which local manufacturers regarded their rivals. In studying business conditions in the United States and Canada nothing has struck us more than the readi- ness of the heads of leading concerns to throw open their doors and to invite inspection of their works and the methods employed. The progressive transatlantic manufacturer knows that he is well able to face the competition of his rivals and that he stands to gain more than he will lose by the policy of this " open door."—En. Spectator.]