Jack Gilchrist On His New Celebrity For Questioning Who Built His Business
HH: As promised, a good conversation coming up now. I knew that Mitt Romney’s ad, These Hands, had scored when lefties began to pump out attacks aimed at the individual featured in the ad, Jack Gilchrist of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating. All of a sudden, all these lefties started showing up and attacking him as having received government contracts, etc. No one told me anything about his business, though, so I put in a call, and I’m very pleased to welcome Jack Gilchrist of Gilchrist Metal Fabricating, Hudson, New Hampshire, to the Hugh Hewitt Show. Hello, Jack, welcome.
JG: Hi, thank you, Hugh.
HH: It’s great to have you on. Would you begin by telling us when Gilchrist Metal Fabricating was founded?
JG: Yeah, it’s Gilchrist Metal Fabricating, and my dad started it in 1975.
HH: 1975, and how did it come to be? What did he have in mind? What had he been doing when he started it?
JG: He had been in related fields working for others for not too long after World War II. And the last employer he had, that he was with for a long time, family business, dad died, bothers disagreed, ended up wanting to go different ways, so they sold it to somebody who built it up very nicely and crashed it hard and dashed it. And my dad was, if I remember, 55 years old at the time, and he thought he’d try it on his own and bought some of the machinery, hired some of the men, and he was a significant presence in the sales and opportunity part of the business anyway. So he started in ’75, and I started, I came home from the Service and started working with him on January 2nd, ’76.
HH: Now Jack, tell us what the business does.
JG: Well, we work with metal. We cut, bend, weld the machine. We don’t have a product line. We strictly provide services to others who either have overflow work or who have no capacity to perform the requirements and services that we can provide for them. So mostly, some form of equipment manufacturing. And we have over 20 types of industries that we service.
HH: How many people do you employ
JG: We’re down to around 37 right now. It’ll hover, bounce around between 37 and 50, 35 and 50.
HH: And so when you…
JG: We’re low for the past decade, I think.
HH: When you came back to go to work for it in 1976, what, did you get out of the Army?
JG: I was delivery room nursery medic and an EMT, emergency room medic stationed at Hill Air Force Base in Ogden, Utah.
HH: Oh, wonderful. Well, thanks for your service. But when you came back, did you expect to have to work hard? I mean, what was the deal with your dad?
JG: Oh, I don’t know. He’s kind of on the nervous side. My mother called me. I was out and living in Utah, hunting, hiking, fishing and skiing, and she says daddy lost his job and started a business. Here, you want to talk to him? And I hadn’t talked to my dad in years. I thought he was P.O’d at me. And so he says you want to come home and learn a trade? And I knew he’d put his house on the line and all of that. My mother told me that stuff. So I said sure, and he says what do you want to learn? And he says well, why don’t you be…what do you want to learn? And I said well, why don’t you teach me how to weld, and he said blankety blank blank, why does everybody want to be a welder? I’m a delivery room nursery guy. I don’t know anything about metal. One of the medics had welded a pot on my Jeep because we four-wheeled out in Utah that had one broken, so I knew that welding was done. So he says why don’t you be a brake operator. I said okay, sure, dad, but you’ve got to tell me what it is first. And a brake operator is somebody who bends metal.
HH: So when you say he put the house on the line, et cetera, what did he risk to get this thing under his name and in his ownership?
JG: Well, I don’t mean to exaggerate or anything, but everything he had. You know, we didn’t have a lot. We didn’t grow up that way or anything. He put, he had a take out a full, you know, mortgage his house to the max. He was able to leverage the equipment he purchased to a degree with the equity in there, or the value of the equipment. But it was all on the line. I don’t know if he had help from a non-institutional source or not. I’m only aware of the institutional lending.
HH: So now, Jack, take us into the business today. How hard to you work? That’s what these lefties are suggesting. By the way, you’re not a Red Sox fan, are you?
JG: (laughing) Hey, I’m a hometown guy. Give me a break, will you?
HH: Oh, gosh.
JG: What are you going to do?
HH: Are you a Patriots fan?
JG: Where are you?
HH: Well, I’m originally from Ohio. I hate the Red Sox and the Patriots because of Belichick and et cetera. But I just, I was getting to like you, but there, we’ve got some distance now.
JG: Well come on. Now you’re sounding like one of the 145 nasty emails I’ve gotten, or some of the colorful voicemails from people.
HH: Well, I’ll bet you have, but they probably didn’t know you were a Red Sox fan. That would be deserved.
HH: But anyway, tell people what’s your day like?
JG: We went a long time without winning anything.
HH: (laughing) What is your day like? I mean, you get up around what time? I saw the ad. It’s very effective. But tell people in your own words how hard you work.
JG: I don’t, I mean, I don’t think I work any harder than the next guy. I mean, there’s 37 people in this company. They start between 5:00 and 8:00 and work, most people work 9 ½ or 10 hours a day, office included, and we’ll work our extra hours on Friday, or Friday’s a short day or no day otherwise. I mean, my hours, I mean, I could be here at 5:30, or I could be here at a quarter of eight. My dad said you know, never come in at the same time every day. Always vary your arrival and your departure times. I mean, I try and keep under a 55 hour workweek. I don’t…you get a little burnt out after that. And we even instituted a safety policy here where guys on the floor couldn’t work 55 hours more than three weeks straight, and then they had to do 40, because we noticed near misses. We track safety and near misses and what not, and the near misses were happening to guys that were working more than three long weeks.
HH: Now you know some of the lefties are blasting you because you received $800,000 in tax-exempt revenue bonds to build the plant. A) what do they not get about that deal? And B) so what? What do you think about that?
JG: Well, the interest rate was a little bit less expensive than a conventional loan. I mean, it was shortly after I took the helm. My dad died, March 30th, 1987. All right, so and I went into a, we had a bit of a family feud that went on for a few years after that. So it was advised to me to go that way. I was taking the advice of my experts – accountants and lawyers and things like that. And a banker is part of my circle of trust, and yeah, so it might have been a half a point cheaper on the interest rate, but you know, you pay through the nose on fees.
HH: Yeah, yeah.
JG: And same thing with the 504 SBA loan back in that same era. It’s…all the government does is guarantee payment like on a 504 loan. They’re not…and you pay a lot for that guarantee. I don’t know. I mean, the only one I know, I wouldn’t do it that way again. You know, we’re an okay business. I can go out in more markets, and I’m aware of more markets that I can get institutional funding for us.
HH: Well, the argument was that I think they were trying to say is that you shouldn’t be out there helping Mitt Romney criticize Barack Obama, because the government’s helped you out, too. And it made it sound like you wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing except for the government. How do you react to that, Jack Gilchrist?
JG: I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing except for the government? I don’t…I mean, I got one of those criticisms a little while ago, and every once in a while I respond to one, and I wish I could give you his direct words, but my response was are you suggesting that if you built your own house, that you grew the trees, cut them down, and sawn them into lumber as well? Everybody works with other people here. I mean, I have a supply base. I’ve got employees. Yeah, we drive on the roads. And I’ll give the government some kudos. But the government is made up of the people, by the people and for the people. And you know, our parents and our grandparents built the Interstate Highway System. And I don’t know if it’s been paid for or not. For all I know, we’re still paying for the Interstate Highway System of 50 years ago. But it’s there for us all to use equally. It doesn’t give me an advantage over you.
HH: That is exactly, I think that’s the key point. The President seemed to be making this hostile assertion about small businessmen not having worked hard, or would have been safety netted. And were there days where you were staring at the bottom line and wondering whether the place was going to stay open?
JG: Are you kidding me? Were there days? I mean, we have to make a lot of adjustments in our life. And I think that’s one of the differences maybe between somebody who made it and didn’t make it. You know, you’ve got to continually reevaluate your situation and adjust accordingly. You can’t just stay the course. And only the Devil walks in a straight line, I was once told.
HH: Yeah, that’s true. Now in terms of taxes, Jack Gilchrist, you’re paying your fair share?
JG: It’s my understanding that avoidance of taxes, an honorable profession, not paying them is a crime. I assure you I am not a criminal.
HH: And so in terms of property taxes, state and local taxes, I know New Hampshire is a low tax state, right? You’re not like California. They’re not taking 10% or more out of your bottom line, are they, from your income?
JG: Well, we don’t have an income tax, but property taxes here are rather high. I live in a 1,500 square foot ranch, in the woods, and I’m paying almost $6,500 bucks, and we have part-time fire, regular police, and curbside trash pickup and recycling every other week. We have our own septic and our own water.
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HH: So Jack Gilchrist, when you heard that, what did you think?
JG: Well, I think it’s, you know, he was ginning up the crowd, and I take it to be rather condescending to guys, people like me or us. I think if it isn’t what he meant to say, his sentence structure is a little bit off, and his use of plural and singular grammar is wrong, and I’ve got to believe he meant what he said. He, after all, I think he was the editor of the Harvard Law Review, a rather prestigious publication. So I can’t imagine he misspoke. And take the whole sentence out of the equation, Hugh, and it’s still, he’s still pushing government, he’s pushing big government. He wants to take our money and spend it on the people he wants to spend it on, and Solyndra and a bunch of others, just a glaring example of that. But I think he’s talking about the community at large. And a community is made up of individuals, and the strength of the community is equal to the strength and contributions of those individuals. And when individuals stop contributing, communities crumble. You know, the Plymouth Plantation was a disastrous communal experiment until Governor Bradford gave, or whatever the terminology is, lots of land to the individuals. It wasn’t until then that the community thrived.
HH: Now Jack Gilchrist, you know, do you think the President has any idea what a small businessman goes through? You’re employing 37 people, so you’re not a big business. I don’t know what your revenues are. It probably goes up and down by year, and it’s none of my business if you’re privately held. But you pay your own fair share in taxes, not more than you’re required, but you’re in there working pretty hard, you’re employing people, you’re paying Social Security tax on your employees. By the way, do you do health insurance for your employees?
JG: We pay 100% of health, medical, short and long term disability for our employees.
HH: Whoa. Okay. So do you think the President…
JG: And we all have the same plan. There’s no upper echelon, upper tier here. We are all equal. This is a very flat organization.
HH: Okay, so do you think the President gets small business?
JG: Well, he says he does, but I don’t know. You know, I can’t profess to say what he gets and doesn’t get. I don’t feel like I have a connection with the man. I can tell you that.
HH: And how about with Mitt Romney?
JG: I, you know, when Governor Romney was elected governor of Massachusetts, I as a New Hampshire resident, southern New Hampshire resident, was thrilled. I believed that he would be good for the region, and I believe that he was good for the region. Did he outsource some jobs? Did Bain Capital outsource some jobs? I’m sure they did. I mean, it’s a bottom line business. It’s a bottom line world. But the vast majority of jobs he created stayed in this country. And I’d like to see the comparison on what Bain during Romney’s active time there was for outsourcing jobs versus the President’s outsourcing jobs with the stimulus package.
HH: Now in terms of what the country needs right now, do you have kids, by the way?
JG: Well, I’ve got my first grandson on August 2nd.
HH: Oh, congratulations. That’s terrific.
JG: Thank you. Yeah, it’s pretty exciting. He could be generation number four.
HH: That’s what I was going to say. Do you expect to hand this business off to your son or your daughter?
JG: My son? I use this place as a disciplinary action for my daughter when she was in high school. So my daughter didn’t have a lot of interest in coming here.
JG: But my son is active, and has certainly earned his possible succession. And speaking with he and a third party the other day, he was definitely open, of the opinion that he hopes that his son does come into the business, you know, 20 years from now.
HH: So do you think this economy is on a course that will allow it to be passed onto him and then on to your grandson?
JG: Well, this will sound a little weird, but no, I think, I can’t predict where the economy is going. I’m a little nervous about where the economy is at. But it’s up to me, and it’s up to us to figure out how to make sure that that happens. And we’ve got to deal, we’ve got to play with the hand that we were dealt with, right, the cards we were dealt with. I would just like to see a better dealer.
HH: Last question, your dad died 25 years ago and a couple of months.
JG: March 30th, 1987.
HH: Yeah, would he be amazed that his son is standing in the middle, sort of the center of a national presidential campaign with ads being made at Gilchrist Metal Fabricating?
JG: He’d probably smack me across the back of the head and tell me what the hell are you doing? We’ve always been a political, I told somebody, you know, I put myself in the ‘I’m mad as hell and I can’t take it anymore’ category. I just don’t like, leaders don’t blame other men for their positions in life, or situations. And I just feel like there’s nothing but blame going on out there. And I’m opposed to it.
HH: All right, well, let me finish by saying can I blame Bill Belichick for driving the Browns out of Cleveland?
JG: That’s before my time, man.
HH: Okay, just checking, because there are some things that you can blame other men for. And I think I could do that in good conscience, that Belichick drove the Browns right into the ground and out of Cleveland for seven years. So…
JG: I hope that I can help you get over that.
HH: (laughing) Jack Gilchrist, great to talk to you, and thanks, good luck. And oh, one more question. They say you got a bunch of Defense contracts. What percentage of your business are those things?
JG: Oh, hell, way less than 10%. It’s not…and I don’t do business with the government. What they said, I mean, I have customers that either have customers that are government-associated, or their customers are government-associated. And it’s an extremely competitive bidding process. And whatever I get for a contract would be a gross sales receipt thing. It doesn’t even suggest that I made any money. That’s the other thing that these hater emails keep saying, you know, you’re successful because of the money you got from the government. I never, no place have I been able to see where I said I was successful, period. I mean, there’s a lot of assumptions going on out there. I’m not going around beating my chest. I’m just…
HH: Jack, no you’re not, and I appreciate you’re taking the time to talk to me. And I hope they just pass you by, and don’t read those emails. The nutters out there are legion. Thanks for involving yourself in politics and spending time with us today on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
JG: Well, I’ve enjoyed our conversation, Hugh.
HH: Thanks, Jack.
End of interview.