• on May 14th, 2013 | 1 comment

    For more than 20 years, the National Association of Letter Carriers has led its annual national food drive, Stamp Out Hunger, to collect non-perishable food to alleviate hunger for the 50 million Americans affected. This Saturday, May 11, letter carriers will pick up canned goods and other non-perishable food left by customers in marked bags.

    This enormously successful food drive is a joint effort of letter carriers, their co-workers, friends, family, and community partners. This year’s partners include, the U.S. Postal Service, AARP, and two well-known names in the mailing community, Valpak and Valassis/Red Plum. The food drive always takes place on the second Saturday of May and regularly draws a strong response from customers. Last year, letter carriers collected more than 70 million pounds of non-perishable food donations, the country’s largest one-day food drive event.

    With its local presence and national reach, the Postal Service touches every American nearly every day. Americans often view their letter carriers as their direct contact with and connection to the Postal Service. This national food drive event is one of the efforts that ties the Postal Service more closely to the communities it serves. A strong community presence is one intangible of the Postal Service and one of the often-overlooked benefits it provides to society.

    A few years ago, the Postal Regulatory Commission considered the social benefit of the Postal Service and issued reports that attempted to highlight or quantify how the Postal Service and its vast infrastructure benefited the American population. The Urban Institute, which conducted a few of the studies, noted: “As an independent agency of the executive branch, the Postal Service opens access to information for preserving democracy, fostering commerce, and promoting the general welfare. It’s a public good and a great equalizer insofar as it serves rich and poor, urban and rural, young and old, unhealthy and hale.”

    The annual letter carrier food drive seems a shining example of the broader benefits the postal infrastructure brings to society. Do you agree or disagree? Do you think these larger societal benefits would suffer with a significantly smaller postal system? Or should we no longer expect the Postal Service – under pressure to operate like a business – to provide such services? Do you have any other ideas that could benefit the nation through the use of the Postal Service’s delivery network? Share your thoughts below.

  • on May 14th, 2013 in Strategy & Public Policy | 5 comments

    In the late 1950s, McDonald’s executives discovered that being in the real estate business was more profitable than focusing solely on the food business. McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc had a business partner, Harry J. Sonneborn, who devised a plan to purchase or lease the land on which nearly all McDonald’s restaurants would be located. He then charged franchisees a monthly rental fee for the land, or a percentage of their sales, whichever was greater. The rest, as they say, is entrepreneurial history.

    With 33,000 facilities on more than 300 million square feet of land, the U.S Postal Service operates more retail outlets than McDonald’s. The Postal Service owns and leases properties in high-traffic areas, often in a city’s most desirable location. Is there an opportunity for the Postal Service to lease or sublease its vast real estate holdings to other businesses to generate revenue and improve cash flow? Could the Postal Service sell its facilities in desirable locations and lease back a portion of the facility as needed?

    For example, the Postal Service partnered in 2007 with a development company to renovate and lease out part of the main Post Office in New York City (James A. Farley building) for retail and other purposes, including a new Amtrak train station and hotel space. While the redevelopment has hit construction delays, it remains a promising model for future plans.

    These kinds of opportunities are not necessarily restricted to post offices in large cities. Smaller facilities are likely to be attractive to third parties as well. One example is the Redondo Beach Galleria Station in Redondo CA, a very small retail unit in a shopping mall, currently on the market to be subleased.

    Do you think the Postal Service should sell or lease its facilities in prime real-estate locations? Should it have any restrictions on which facilities it can sell or lease or what types of operations can lease a postal facility? Should there be restrictions on how the Postal Service uses the revenues raised from such a sale or lease? Share your thoughts.