By Amanda McGowan

All of the news of our country's current economic crisis makes me a little wary of my own financial state; I think more than anything, it is the sense of instability that worries me most.

One day the headlines report a huge stock market collapse. Then the next thing you know, stock brokers are holding their heads in their hands. Houses are foreclosing left and right. Thousands of people are losing their jobs. Companies at the forefront of the industry just a few years ago are going bankrupt or cutting thousands of jobs just to make ends meet.

Many Americans have felt this economical turmoil far worse than I have so far-through the loss of jobs, homes, businesses. When I think about it, I have been impacted by the economy mainly in terms of modifying my spending habits, eliminating more of my wants to feel more financially secure to afford my needs-bringing a lunch to work rather than going out, limiting my $4 Starbucks latte intake to once per week at most, throwing on that extra sweatshirt in lieu of turning the heat up an extra few degrees in my apartment.

Some declare this crisis as the worst since the Depression. The constant instability and ebb-and-flow of the economy leave us unsure-will it get better or worse? The answer for many, I think, rests in the change expected to come from the presidential-elect, Barack Obama.

Based on the election this month, the majority of Americans look to Obama to provide the answers and the changes needed to bring our economy out of this downfall, and prevent it from continuing its downward spiral. Obama has promised a plan to help the middle class by bringing back the jobs that have been lost. He says we must stimulate this economy to prevent a deepened recession.

And while I believe Obama is capable of creating change, I think it will take time-more time than many necessarily expect. Americans have their hopes up that come next year, new leadership will pull this economy out of trouble. However, is four years enough time to make a big enough impact? It may not be, and I think that could leave many disappointed.

Until this economy can truly get turned around, maybe we should look at how we can contribute to the change we seek. Are there little details in our spending-even in the context of a large-operation processing plant-that could make a difference?

I recently visited a facility that did not utilize its light fixtures, until the daylight from the windows no longer provided sufficient light, to keep energy costs down. The company made initial investments in other areas to operate more efficiently, but its return on investment was far greater by cutting time, energy and labor costs.

Furthermore, generating ideas to keep employee morale up-employee appreciation initiatives, incentives, etc.-could keep turnover down and increase worker efficiency.

This is a time of change. And I think things will change for the better, but it will take time. We may have found a solution, but the problems are still here now. In the meantime, maybe we, as individuals, plant managers, plant workers and so on, can find ways to contribute to the solution, by making changes in our spending that could go along way as we all head in a new direction.

I'd love to hear your opinion. Feel free to send me an e-mail at