Before the War Contracts Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, Surplus Property Board member, Robert A. Hurley, recently stated that the total cost of removing machine tools from war plants would be around $750,000,000. This represents a handling cost of $1,000.00 per machine based on the estimated surplus. Whether or not Mr. Hurley included selling costs in this estimate, we are not sure—but we are sure that an average margin of $1,000.00 per machine for handling and selling would make a very attractive proposition to anyone experienced in the surplus machinery business.
The Surplus Property Board and some of the disposal agencies have had offers from industry groups experienced in the sale of used mechanical equipment to assist in its redistribution, and while these offers have received some courteous consideration, there seems to be a reluctance on the part of someone to take any definite action.
We know that the Surplus Property Board is asking Congress for an appropriation of $60,000,000 to conduct their activities and those of the disposal agencies for a period of four or five months. This sounds to us like a pretty “large order” when we take into consideration that there are literally hundreds of firms in this country with years of experience in surplus property disposal willing to cooperate if given fair remuneration for the time and effort they would have to spend in selling this government property.
Last month the title of our editorial was, “There Is No Substitute For Experience” and we would again like to emphasize its message. Every businessman knows that it takes months and lots of money to train salesmen and this “goes double” in the mechanical equipment field. It takes years to educate this type of salesman and demands a good engineering or practical shop background.
These facts apply particularly to the men who sell power and electrical equipment, overhead cranes, machine tools and other types of industrial plant machinery where knowledge of application of the machinery is all important. They also apply to the industrial auctioneer.
The fund of knowledge gathered by men buying and selling used and rebuilt industrial equipment is unlimited because their experience is with all makes and types, and not generally concentrated upon one or two makes of equipment.
Our suggestion is that the sooner the Surplus Property Board makes provision, which they are authorized to do by the Surplus Property Act, to utilize these channels of trade, the quicker the whole surplus disposal headache will be relieved. If this is done, industry can settle down to the business of defeating Japan and making definite plans for civilian production after V-J Day.