Macro trends affecting self storage & multifamily with Ryan Hanks CEO of Madison Capital Group

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Ryan Hanks, CEO of Madison Capital Group, believed that the self-storage space was experiencing significant tail winds.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Ryan Hanks, CEO of Madison Capital Group, believed that the self-storage space was experiencing significant tail winds. Once the virus hit, those who did not appropriately adapt their business models to modern day technology in all sectors are those who found themselves at a greater disadvantage in the months to come. Madison Capital Group, which operates in the Self-Storage sector, has jumped onto these technology related opportunities by offering their facilities to be used for inventory storage as E-Commerce booms.

Hanks has seen a decline in opportunities within the Multifamily sector. Despite the lack of available progressive strategies in multifamily, Madison Capital had expected a collection rate decrease of 30%. However, they are only seeing a 5% deficit in collections following COVID-19. Hanks remains optimistic that the infection rates in the southeastern United States’ will remain relatively low and that progressive economic strategies to increase employment will stimulate the sectors that are associated with his business.

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Ryan Morfin:                    Welcome to Non-Beta Alpha. I’m Ryan Morfin, and on today’s episode, we have Ryan Hanks, CEO of Madison Capital Group. Today, he’s going to talk about macro trends affecting self storage and multifamily. This is Non-Beta Alpha.

Ryan Morfin:                    (singing)

Ryan Morfin:                    Ryan Hanks, welcome to the show. Thanks for coming on to the show.

Ryan Hanks:                     Thanks for having me.

Ryan Morfin:                    So, wanted to pick your brain a little bit. You’re in two very interesting asset classes, self storage and multifamily. Would love to hear your perspective as an owner/operator, of what was happening to self storage. And, maybe the second half of the conversation, we can move to multifamily. What you were seeing, operating these businesses and these properties prior to the coronavirus? And then how coronavirus has changed the demand or the need for some of these property types?

Ryan Hanks:                     Yeah, absolutely. Storage obviously had been certainly in the midst of some pretty significant tailwinds, I think, heading into COVID. And most MSA’s, I think 2019, you were coming off a little bit of a drag with supply in some markets. So, lease ups were starting to sputter a little bit, rents were kind of bouncing around. But, we kind of felt like we were coming out of that a little bit in 2020 as supply was dwindling for a number of reasons.

Ryan Hanks:                     So, we were seeing good leasing activity throughout the winter and in the third and fourth quarter of last year. We were still consistently getting very positive rent increases on our existing tenants and still having a positive trend on, new rentals coming in the door. So we we’re seeing good productive activity in most of our markets. I think we’re in nine states in the storage side now spread out throughout the Southeast. So we’ve got a good group of data from primary markets to kind of tertiary markets to look from. So it was robust. We were seeing a lot of activity. You were seeing a lot of people getting into the space on the development side. It had become kind of the new shiny toy, like industrial over the last couple of years as investors were looking for places to put capital.

Ryan Hanks:                     So it was certainly on the up and up. And I think what’s been really interesting in storage now, having been through a couple of months of the pandemic, if you will, we’ve continued to really good performance. I think honestly, it’s probably a healthy thing in a way for self storage. It’s going to weed out, I think larger sponsors from smaller sponsors. Those that have not invested in the right technology, I think are going to suffer. The nice thing about self storage is even in normal times, it’s a contactless leasing environment. You can rent online, can pay online. You’re given a code to enter the property. If you don’t want to see the manager, you don’t have to. And so we saw a tremendous amount of leasing online during the shutdown. We did not, we did not have one week where I would say we had negative rentals.

Ryan Hanks:                     And what I mean by that is we had more move outs than we have rental activity. We probably saw even a spike in leasing during the month of April. May seems to already kind of be back to normal times a little bit. But I would say overall, we’ve not seen much of a slowdown. We’ve, like a lot of other [reeds 00:04:09] and larger companies, have decided you really got to be careful on how aggressive you’re going to get on rate increases right now. It’s better to kind of put your borders around the property, keep your occupancies full, just survive, kind of get through the pandemic, get through the summer. You can kind of see that there’s going to be a light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic. And so we’re staying positive in that regard, but we kind of got very defensive very quickly, not knowing what direction storage was going to go, but I think we’ve been pleasantly surprised by performance.

Ryan Hanks:                     And I think that in large part that has to do with the… We had invested a significant amount of money about six months ago in what I would call our online platform, brought on our full time call center, used kind of a lease optimization tool, which helps us price units more effectively. So things that have really kind of paid off, I think during the pandemic, just because we launched a new website, made some major upgrades, brought on a firm, go local to really boost our online kind of presence with Google and Facebook ads and things of that nature. So I guess all in all, I think most of the rates reported in the last 24 hours, and I think everyone’s been pleasantly surprised, certainly not all roses.

Ryan Hanks:                     Yes, it’s a spring season. Things go a little slower than we’d like, but we’re seeing good solid leasing activity. And I think it’s from a couple of different ways. One of our staff members brought up an interesting point. One of our markets where people are cleaning out their stuff in their garages or doing projects, and they’re realizing that they got more stuff than they need in their house and they’re going into storage. So that’s been one interesting news. The college kids have been thrown all over the place and actually this weekend, as I understand it, several boarding schools and colleges and whatnot are actually kids are moving their stuff out. So I expect the next couple of weeks, we’re probably going to see some spikes there. That’s not going to be a longterm trend, but it certainly helps in the short term.

Ryan Hanks:                     And we’ve been, I think on the forefront of this idea for several years is there is no doubt retail has a problem in a variety of different ways. I’ll just kind of talk in generalities. And I think what you’re going to start seeing, and we’ve already seen it where groups that were on the edge, boutiques and more small businesses that were on the edge with their brick and mortar, do we even need a retail store? I think you’re absolutely going to go see you see them go e-commerce and they still need a place to store stuff. They need to store inventory. We’re actually working with businesses to help them. You tell us where the product needs to go and we’ll ship it for you. So we’re working already directly with Amazon, FedEx and UPS.

Ryan Hanks:                     We’re actually working with them to set up almost drop-offs and pickups at our facility and just to help that small business owner get things in and out. And I think that really is going to take off in our space because there’s no doubt industrials, I would imagine probably not thrive in this time, but I think what we’ve been spending a lot of time, kind of listening and following what Amazon’s doing and even companies like Walmart. And I think if you listen to them carefully, you’ll hear that over the next six to 12 months, we are going to see what we would have called five years worth of growth in the eCommerce space is going to happen in the next six to 12 months. That to me is a tremendous opportunity.

Ryan Morfin:                    So self storage may look to become like a micro fulfillment center for a small business.

Ryan Hanks:                     A hundred percent because not everyone needs obviously big, massive industrial and not everyone could afford flex space. If you’re a boutique owner here in Charlotte, North Carolina, we sell clothes, we sell furniture, we’re a consignment shop. Everyone is shifting online. Everyone’s shifting to Instagram, Facebook, social media, Etsy, Amazon, you name it. And so I absolutely think that we can serve as a mini fulfillment center, kind of that last mile distribution hub for some of these shipping companies and small business owners.

Ryan Morfin:                    And leading up into the second half of last year, how were cap rates behaving for this asset?

Ryan Hanks:                     They were getting low. I mean, there’s no doubt. I mean, a storage has become a hot product type as institutional capital has kind of focused on it. For a long time it was a sleepy asset class, what wasn’t part of the four major food groups of office mall, retail, industrial. And I think investors realize, wow, we got low capex. You can raise rents whenever you want. There’s going to be an increase in millennials and baby boomers. They’re looking at the demographics look like they’ll look at anything. And I think that’s what’s kind of fueled some of that. And so I would say cap rates have been decreasing for the last couple years. And even if you look at the last couple of months, there’s still been trades in the self storage space on the institutional side, lenders are still lending.

Ryan Hanks:                     We’re closing an asset here in Texas in a few weeks where we’re getting very attractive fixed rate debt at 3.2%. So there’s attractive debt out there from life companies for stabilized storage assets. So they’re still deals being done. What cap rates do in the future that’s anyone’s guess. I think there’s going to be a couple asset classes where I think you’re not going to see a massive spike. You’re going to see some opportunities, but there were certainly trending low, heading into the pandemic for sure.

Ryan Morfin:                    And what would you say about, what is that show, not American pickers, but the one where they have the self storage lockers.

Ryan Hanks:                     Storage Wars.

Ryan Morfin:                    Yeah. Storage Wars. Has that show increased the popularity of the asset class? Because I know I watched that show sometimes.

Ryan Morfin:                    I think a little bit, I mean, we get asked about it quite a bit. Those two are filmed in California and Texas are the two states that are known for legendary auctions. I think most that shows based in Southern California where, you’ve got a lot of wealth and people forget about stuff, but it does happen. We hold auctions every month. One of the things that is appealing obviously about the asset class that maybe some people don’t know about, we probably have the most landlord friendly rules of any commercial real estate asset class that I’m aware of. If you don’t pay, if you’re 15 days late, we lock you out of your unit and put our lock on there. And if you’re 30 days late, we have the ability to throw you out.

Ryan Morfin:                    Now we try not to. We don’t have a, I would call it vulturistic mindset like some of the other companies, but there does become a time and a place where we have to act and we can’t get a hold of people or they just kind of said, forget it. They don’t want to pay. So most of what we do, and most of what I think other companies do is actually more of an online auction process. But yeah, we do have live auctions from time to time. We’ve had to sell cars and boats. We can go through the legal process and try and contact the owner or any relative. And sometimes you just can’t find people or they just forget it or disappear, or obviously it could be a death, but it is a real thing.

Ryan Morfin:                    We’ve held more than a fair share, but again, I think it is an interesting part of the asset class to where opposed to multifamily… Forget about what’s going on during COVID, but pre COVID, if you’re in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County here, main county in Charlotte, and I imagine Dallas Atlanta, pick your MSA, it’s pretty similar. I mean, it takes you 60 to 90 days to evict someone. It’s a process and it’s expensive. So let’s think about storage is we take some pictures of the unit posted online and whatever doesn’t get bought, we either donate or if it’s something, no one wants it, it gets thrown away. So it’s simple as that.

Ryan Morfin:                    Well, given, given the popularity of the show, what’s the weirdest thing you guys have ever come up with, out of one of these auctions that you found and you were, how the heck did they put that in here?

Ryan Hanks:                     Well, I’ll give you a couple of things. The weirdest thing that we’ve ever sold in my opinion was a Lexus car. I don’t know if you recall that two door coupe that they made kind of had a little bit of a bubble look, very popular car in kind of the mid 2000s, I think, or early 2000s, mint condition, clearly hadn’t been touched for a long time. Was that a property in Florida? I mean, we contacted Tallahassee, went by the letter of the law. Contacted every single person and the DMV, no one could find the owner knowing and we sold it and I think we had over 70 bids at the auction and somebody got a pretty good deal.

Ryan Hanks:                     I don’t know how somebody forgets about that car or even like a relative or hey, go pick up the car or you got a free car within a family, but that’s what happened. I would say the inside of a unit, it would probably be… We had a guy who set up a couple different, almost like sound studios, music studios and a couple of units. And we noticed something was odd because our utility bills are usually pretty consistent. And the thing had been running pretty high. We’ve been tracking the cameras and we can tell some people are coming and going, but it was basically a guy and a couple of his buddies and they left all this very expensive sound equipment. Something you would see in a mini recording studio. Drum set, keyboards, it was pretty impressive.

Ryan Morfin:                    Wow. That’s, that’s funny. Did they have to hack into the electrical?

Ryan Hanks:                     Yeah, yeah. Thousands of dollars worth of stuff, but they had just disappeared.

Ryan Morfin:                    Wow. That’s, that’s amazing. Well, switching gears a little bit to the other asset type that you guys have, I think 15 multifamily properties. Can you talk a little bit about your view on multifamily in the markets that you were in prior to coronavirus and how things have changed over the last few months?

Ryan Morfin:                    Yeah, we’ve definitely been a net seller in the multifamily space of the last couple of years. So we don’t have a ton of what I would call stabilized, operating properties. I think a great data point. We’re in the midst of selling one of our properties right now and that closes next week. And we’re probably getting a five, one cap in the midst of this, which I thought was pretty good. They’re getting a loan from Freddie Mac. That was put under contract pre COVID, but we gave him a little bit of price concession. We gave him some more time and it looks like that deal’s getting done. So people still want to transact in multifamily. There’s been a tremendous amount of capital raised around the space, whether it’s for value add… We were a very active acquirer up until 2015 and we really struggled to make sense of acquiring and given where cap rates are.

Ryan Morfin:                    So we’ve focused mainly on the development space and we’re still very bullish on that. We think costs are going to come down. We think there’s still a very good spread between what we can build and what you can sell for even if cap rates were to jump 50 basis points, which I don’t think they will. We think we’re in a good spot. But the one thing that stuck out to me in the asset class that we deal with, we’re just kind of middle-market class A suburban. So that would be your Frisco Texases, your suburban Charlottes, suburban Atlantas and Nashville, Raleigh, just to name a few. I would say at least the research that we’ve done and looking at some of our own assets, collections have been much higher than what we expected. We call could be fooled and later this month it could be a little worse, but we started to underwrite as expecting that we’re probably going to have about 30% delinquency. And I would say that we’re probably inside a 5%.

Ryan Morfin:                    And I’ve been part of that. I give credit to our operations team because we really had to educate the tenant early because there was a lot of confusion if you recall coming out where you can’t evict people for 60 days. And then the group start that, well, it’s just free rent for everybody. The landlord’s getting a forbearance, he’s getting concession. Therefore, you shouldn’t have to pay. So we just try to educate people, get out in front of it, say, listen, first of all, no one said you got free rent. So if you don’t want to pay in three or four months, you’re going to owe double. So I think it was just an education process. And I think it scared a lot of people. So I think that was a little bit of a learning curve.

Ryan Morfin:                    And then, listen, there’s no question that unfortunately the actions taken by companies effected their payrolls or, these furloughs or layoffs, whatever you want to call it. So listen, if you have a problem, we’ll figure it out. We’ll help you out. We’ve given a lot of money to tenants to help them through this time through donations and whatnot. We’ll work on amortizing their lease over a longer period of time. We’re not a public company, obviously we’re a small private company. We’re like a family and we treat our customers that way. And so we don’t want have a vulturistic mentality, I always tell my staff during these times. It’s easy to go there. But I would say we’ve been very surprised by the collections received through what is it, May 9th. We’re looking at it every day.

Ryan Morfin:                    But I think for us, we’re still bullish on the sector. We think all those markets I just mentioned in kind of the Sun belt, Texas, Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida. I think what you’re going to see with COVID is a continued massive flight from larger cities, certainly the Northeast down South where there’s jobs, there’s opportunities, relatively cheap place to live better quality, that was already happening. I think this trend is going to really set a record pace through the rest of the 2020. They all need a place to live. So I think multifamily still bodes well. It’d be interesting to see what kind of cap rates are coming out of this and how people figure out how to transact during this time, because people don’t want to come to our properties and investment committees are all over the place and you’re doing Zoom calls such as this.

Ryan Morfin:                    So it’ll be interesting to see when that transactional volume starts to pick up again, but just in talking to other colleagues and Fannie and Freddie and other institutions, I think everyone’s been pleasantly surprised by the collections that we’ve seen, at least in the Southeast. I think some other major cities have been a little tougher and then you’re even bound by some local government things that are making it even tougher on the landlord. Just like storage, multifamily was on fire heading into this, every trade was more expensive than the last, so it was a great time to be a seller. I think it’ll just be interesting to see on the other side of this, who’s still left investing. I think a lot of institutional capital is probably on the sidelines to the rest of the year, just my prediction, wait and see approach. See what happens next year.

Ryan Morfin:                    So it’s going to be a wait and see, I think, or who’s going to be the guy to step in and start buying again. And who’s going to be a seller? I think nice thing on the development side is we relatively have a good basis. So, okay, maybe we’re not going to hit the return here, but we could still hit a really good return and everyone’s happy with that. So I think we’re still in a good spot. We’re still buying land. As I mentioned before, we think costs are going to come down. So we think it actually could be a really good time to break ground on something.

Ryan Morfin:                    Because you’re not delivering for 12 to 14 months out. Certainly I would think we’re in a strong recovery mode in 2021, 2022. So while people that are reliant on institutional capital, I think are going to be on the sidelines. I’m not kind of comparing to the financial crisis, but we were very successful while people were doing nothing because they were relying on this kind of bucket of capital. We were able to use our own capital, the private capital that we had, that we had been disciplined with, waiting and seeing, I think we’ll be able to transact and take advantage of kind of this unique opportunity.

Ryan Morfin:                    Well, so it’s interesting. I mean, from an underwriting perspective, through the fog going forward. Unemployment’s going to be much higher. And so you made a comment about 30% delinquency. What is the typical industry breakeven point to cover debt service of in terms of occupancy? When you’re looking at an underwriting, you’ve got to hit this percentage occupancy to break even

Ryan Morfin:                    For self storage, this is another thing about the asset class. It’s much lower than other asset classes. Because our expense to income ratios are so low. I would say, it again depends on leverage, but probably somewhere in that 60, 65% range. Again, if you’re super levered, then it’s probably in the 70s, but for most moderate lever deals, I would say it’s in that sub 70 range, which is pretty attractive because if you go back and look at the depths of 2009 and you go to Dallas or Atlanta, two big sun belt markets and said, how bad was it? I think a lot of people were, ah, we were in the high seventies, low eighties. That was one of those stats that we were studying the space that we really kind of focused on. I think multifamily, it can really vary, but I would say it’s probably again probably closer to 75, 80%, based on a pretty conservative debt.

Ryan Morfin:                    So that’s why that certain percent starts to get a little, important on that delinquency number. And I think a lot of in talking to other colleagues, I mean, even the rates, they even were public about it. We’re going to underwrite as if 30 to 50% don’t pay. I’ve not heard any of those levels yet, but that’s why you had Fannie and Freddie come out very quickly with the forbearance program for landlords, for owners to say, well, we’ll forbear for 90 days or longer and we’ll make it up on the back of the loan or you’ve got to repay it at a later date. So definitely been some fear. I’d say more fear in multi than obviously storage, I mean, storage is unique in that most people are on auto pay, it’s relatively low part of their maybe monthly expense. It’s a hundred to 150 bucks a month on average would be my guess for a 5 x 10, 10 x 10 unit.

Ryan Morfin:                    So yeah, that’s where I think multi has gotten a little bit scary where people have had a hard time underwriting and getting super excited because we don’t know where May’s going to shake out, we don’t know where June’s going to shake out. And I’ve said from day one, this isn’t a 60 day problem. This is a nine month problem. Maybe it’s a 12 month problem. So don’t act like coming out of the summer, things will be all roses. You got to be kind of, I think, prepared to do what you got to do, certainly for the rest of this year and then maybe in the next year. We’ve already seen some positive signs and some industries that are hiring people back.

Ryan Morfin:                    There’s some that just aren’t going to be that fortunate, but you’re going to have a hard time kind of surviving through this. So it is a little bit of a scarier time, I think, in the multi space. But throughout May and June and July, if we can get some positive trends, then I think that’s when you’ll see the market kind of open up a little bit in the capital market side, but it’s going to take clearly through June for the people who really feel like they got their arms around it and then go from there.

Ryan Morfin:                    So one question I have for you. So do you think there’s going to be a softening in rental increases or even a reduction as if this delinquency turns into an occupancy problem, people are going to then chase higher quality tenants?

Ryan Hanks:                     The same thing you saw in 09. And again, I think that’s why, we liked that suburban garden product because what you’re going to see is people trade up and people trade down. And what I mean by that is somebody that maybe couldn’t have afford to live in that new shiny apartment community, he’ll take Orlando, Florida, I’ve got to go into an older 20 year old vintage deal. They’ve given me a better deal, better concession. That everyone’s going to be offering more concessions. I mean, we’re doing it on our lease-up deals because this isn’t a time to be overly proud of my opinion.

Ryan Hanks:                     It’s a survival mode. It’s time to get people in the door, make them comfortable, just get through the year. And so I think you’re going to see people trade up from B’s to A’s and C’s to B’s and so on. And then I think you’re going to see people go from that higher end, super infill luxury again, into that middle market, suburban. You know what? I could save four hundred bucks a month by driving from Frisco to the Galleria, then I’m going to do that. I’ll take a longer commute, it’s worth it. And I think people do a lot of different things to save three to five hundred bucks a month. And so I think, to answer your question, both are going to happen. You’re going to see increased concessions. You’re not going to see as much rent growth or maybe zero rent growth for the rest of the year.

Ryan Hanks:                     And if all that doesn’t work, then you’re just going to clearly see people just… We call it a concession, but you’re really just lowering your rent. I mean, it depends on how you structure that concession, but I think it’s already happening. And I think that’s just the way it’s got to be until again, people have a clear picture. When you get more foot traffic, every multi deals kind of been in that shelter in place mode, like other businesses. So we’ve not been able to hold the property tours. It’s all been virtual tours and the properties are now slowly starting to open up. So we’ll be rushing to see how the summer goes, but I think everyone’s anticipating what you just kind of said is that we’re going to need to increase concessions, lower rates if need be. Again, we saw a similar thing in 09 for about a year or less. And like I said, you saw people kind of trading in and out of properties all over the place on the tenant side.

Ryan Morfin:                    Well, and so I’m curious, so you just sell a property and you said there was a concession. Do you mind sharing a little more, what percentage, was there a price reduction or were there other structural terms that changed? And was it driven by the lender?

Ryan Hanks:                     Just price reduction. And, we were in a situation where our basis was attractive enough to where we could lower the price and we were still getting a very good return. So asset we’ve owned for about five years. So we’ve seen positive NOI growth year over year. So we were in a good position, but it was really just price reduction. Then I think anything that’s getting closed right now clearly it’s a post COVID pricing, if you will. Even if it’s 5%. Somebody’s got to feel like they’re getting a deal. And so, it just is what it is. I think we decreased our price maybe about 8%, 9%, which was over 10,000 a unit, which seems like a big number, but the reality is we still felt very good in our return. They were willing to go hard with several million dollars of money. They had a loan in place for Freddie Mac ready to go. So we felt like it was a good trade, but yeah, it’s the step it’s that COVID mentality the post COVID mentality. I’m already calling it with buyers. That’s just going to be out there for a while.

Ryan Morfin:                    Well now hats off to you to not be sentimental about the old pricing regime and just taking a trade because yeah, I mean, 10,000 a key or 10,000 a door that 12 months ago you would have probably, been upset, but I think getting a trade done and still having a great exit return for your investors is a great data point for a good steward of capital. Well, I wanted to ask just one final question. Where do the silver linings in the economy keeps you optimistic about where we’re going, given the pandemic? And then secondly, what books, if any, are you reading right now for either personal or professional interest?

Ryan Hanks:                     Yeah, so I think to me the first silver lining is what I touched on before. You know, we’re based in Charlotte, North Carolina, we’re an operator in the Southeast and the sun belt. I really think it’s going to be a positive for the Southeast. I think if you take states like where you’re at in Texas and you take the Carolinas, we haven’t seen a tremendous amount of cases. I think, we’ve got progressive economies. We want to get people back to work. We want to create jobs. I think that’s just going to continue to thrive. And you’re just going to see people continue to move to those areas that maybe you saw a little bit of this with 9/11. At least we did it here in the Carolinas where people that were on the fence about going back home, raising their family elsewhere.

Ryan Hanks:                     What have you, whatever the reason may be, I think a pandemic like this kind of pushes that person over the edge to say, hey, it’s now or never. Let’s just do it. Let’s make the change. We’ll figure it out as we go. Americans are resilient. I think people are thriving for a better quality of life. And so I think that to me is one of the first things that kind of jumped out. I think if you kind of look more nationally, I would hope that we are a little more thoughtful about what gets made, where maybe, in a variety of different industries, it’d be nice to kind of see us a little more reliant on things that are made here in the country, a little bit more made in the USA. That’s more of a personal hope I guess.

Ryan Hanks:                     And I think there’s a lot of people that have that same sentiment is, hey, let’s get people back to work here, right here in our home turf and be a little more proud of products that are perhaps made here. And so I hope there’s some of that on a national level, it’s obviously a much more global economy than it’s ever been, but we certainly have a lot of able body workers here, a lot of products that we all rely on that are made all over the world. And I would hope that we could see some more, some more growth in that regard.

Ryan Hanks:                     But I think there’s a couple of things that are going to come out of this where people are going to be a little bit more conscious about where their stuff gets made. I think that’s going to create more jobs. I certainly think the current politics and the positions that they’re in, I think recognize that as well. So hopefully they continue to push that forward or wherever is, gets an office going forward. I really hope they make that a big part of a big part of their kind of goal during their time in administration, where we create some more jobs here in the USA.

Ryan Morfin:                    Absolutely. I think supply chain’s coming home. And any books of interest that you’ve picked up in the last few months?

Ryan Hanks:                     I’m a big sports fanatic. I’ve been reading, I would say a lot of sports biographies. I’ve gotten hooked on the podcast and books on tape, like most people, but I’m actually finished up reading basically a biography about Bob Gibson, the famous pitcher. I’m a huge baseball fan. But obviously that’s part of my latest and greatest. It’s just been kind of without what we watch sports. I feel like that’s been, that’s been the most fun. Actually. It was reading a book about the famous Dallas Cowboys and kind of their nineties team, just finished that one up. And so pretty, pretty interesting stories there, but it’s a way to kind of feel like we’re living in the active sports environment when all I have to watch is the Jordan documentary.

Ryan Morfin:                    Well, it’s interesting. I think a NBA is talking about going to Disney world to go open up a season, get all the teams in different hotels, get them tested to get them into the bubble so they can play in an arena. NFL is probably going to come back on snow fans. I think baseball is going to be harder hit though because they rely on ticket sales for a lot of their business model. I’m hoping for college football.

Ryan Hanks:                     I don’t know what point you just, if you’re NBA specifically, I love all sports here up in the Philadelphia area. So hockey, basketball, baseball, football, love college sports as well. Some of them, I think you may just have to throw your hands in the air and say, we just got to pick it up next year. Some of it’s getting a little chaotic talking about the hoops they’re going to have to jump through. So I was very positive to hear about the NFL, would love to see some baseball this year. Obviously it’s summer. I love to go to games in the summer, wherever I’m traveling to. So it’s a huge adjustment if you’re a sports guy, for sure.

Ryan Morfin:                    Well, if you don’t have sports to watch you better clean the garage and get a self storage unit. Ryan, I appreciate you joining us. It was great to hear from you and we hope to invite you back again soon in the coming months to see how this is all playing out, but have a great day. And thank you for joining us.

Ryan Hanks:                     You bet. Thanks Ryan.

Ryan Morfin:                    Thanks. Thanks for watching Non Beta Alpha. And before we go, please remember to subscribe and leave us a review on Apple podcast or YouTube channel. This is Non Beta Alpha. Now, you know. (singing)

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Ryan Morfin: Welcome to Non-Beta Alpha. I'm Ryan Morfin. On today's episode, we have Pini Althaus, CEO of USA Rare Earth, talking to us about the supply chain glut in rare earth minerals. This is Non-Beta Alpha.

Ryan MorfinPini, Welcome to the show. Thank you for coming on today.

Pini AlthausThank you for having me, Ryan. Good to be here.

Ryan Morfin: So you're an investor and a miner in rare earth minerals. Can you share with our listener base, what are rare earth minerals? Why are they important and why is there a geopolitical race going on globally?

Pini AlthausYeah, I mean, rare earths are an extremely ubiquitous part of all advanced manufacturing or technology manufacturing today's day and age. Several years ago, I had not heard too much about rare earths myself. I was not that familiar with it and being involved in this sector, in this company, for the past few years has given me an education of course. And I mean, I was sad to hear that 50% of all imports into the United States contain are earth elements and it runs the gamut from consumer electronic devices that we use every day. Our cell phones, our laptops, most communication devices, medical equipment. So there's a tie with COVID, which we can touch on at your discretion. Electric vehicles, defense equipment. So pretty much anything or everything high tech today has a rare earth element or critical minerals contained within them.

Ryan MorfinAnd what are some of the names of some of the more important rare earth? I know there's lithium for batteries, but what else is considered in this category, critical?

Pini Althaus: Yeah, so lithium is a separate category to battery material. The rare earths are 17 rare earths. The four, let's call it, key rare earths that we're focused on at our company, the four rare earths that go into the permanent magnets. And these are the magnets that are found, there are a number of them in your back of your cell phone or an iPad. But if you look at an F35 striker jet, you've got about a ton of rare earth magnets in those. And we've got two heavy rare earths and two light rare earths is part of the permanent magnets. You've got dysprosium, ytterbium are the heavies, and then you've got neodymium, praseodymium as the two light rare earths. So those would be key rare earths that are the focus.

Ryan MorfinAnd you use these in, I guess, in military applications as well, but historically, where has the United States sourced the rare earth for supply chain?

Pini AlthausYeah. And that's the shocking part. We've been securing those materials from China. So China controls the rare earth sector and has done so for the past 30 years or so. And it was a significant misstep on the part of the United States, allowing China to have this control. And actually this wasn't a question of China coming in and doing anything nefarious as far as stealing IP or anything. The US government made a conscious decision about 30 years ago to allow China to come to the United States and acquire the processing capabilities for rare earths. So just as part of some background, you've got the rare earth materials containing various mining projects, but once you extract them, you have to then process them and they go through certain phases before they get to the magnet phase. And China, the thought process was let China do the mining, let China do the processing.

Pini AlthausWe don't need to do that here. And we'll buy the materials from China cheaply and the premier of China at the time, Deng Xiaoping made the comment, he said, "The Middle East has oil. China has rare earths." And unfortunately we weren't smart enough to understand what he was saying. And the Chinese understood that the future of manufacturing is going to revolve around control of the rare earth and critical mineral supply chain. So if you think about it today, Ryan, we cannot build... Forget about consumer electronics and medical equipment. We cannot build the equipment that the US Pentagon or the US armed forces require, whether it's F35 fighter jet, Tomahawk cruise missile, communications equipment, without going to China and obtaining those materials. And it's obvious to all that this should be extremely alarming. We've seen China use this as a weapon, if you will, as far as how it interacts with other countries back in 2010, when there was a dispute between China and Japan on the East China Sea.

Pini AlthausSo China cut off rare earth exports from Japan for 40 days. Japan obviously being a significant user of rare earth elements for their high-tech manufacturing sector, that was stopped after 40 days. But in fact, it was President Obama that first made the United States aware of this, formed a division within the Department of Defense to handle this issue, but not much has happened. And we continue to be relying on China for these materials. And what has been made about trade war with China and whether the trade war is really the impetus for China withholding rare earth exports. And that is a huge misnomer. Whilst China had been talking or implying that they would cut off rare earth exports, the truth of the matter is that China, under it's made in China, 2025 mandate, its belt and road initiatives and others. And you seem to control the critical minerals and rare earth supply chain so that it can continue its dominance as a manufacturer or a global supplier of these materials and finished products.

Pini Althaus: It's the backbone of its economy. And in fact, China has become a net importer of rare earths from different countries like Miramar and others. So with that, they are decreasing the exports to countries like the United States, Japan and others.

Ryan Morfin: And was it ever a risk that the Chinese were going to turn off the exports of rare earth to the US during the trade war? How close were we to that? And was that ever some saber rattling that went down during trade negotiations?

Pini AlthausYeah, I think it was saber rattling. I think it would be paramount to an act of war. I can't say with any authority that that would not happen, but it would be probably, aside from war itself, it would be one of the most significant acts of war cutting the United States off from the ability to procure rare earths. But that being said, I mean, if you look at, as an analogy, the oil and gas sector and the reliance of the United States had for many, many years on OPEC countries to supply us with the oil. And we had embargoes and we had price manipulation by OPEC. This is far more significant given the ubiquity of where these rare earths go. And yes, we're always under the threat that China can cut off exports under the guise of a trade war or for any other nefarious reasons.

Pini AlthausBut I think even more importantly, to just as the natural run of the course of things with regards to their business and their desire to maintain themselves as the global leader in manufacturing and exporting of goods, China is in a position now where it actually requires these materials for their own domestic consumption and can legitimately cut off rare earth exports by stating that they need it for manufacturing and that would actually be somewhat correct. So we're in an extremely dangerous position here with this reliance on China. And it wouldn't just be China. If it was another country, it would be similar issues, not to the same extent, but reliance on one country for these materials is dangerous.

Ryan Morfin: And it's been mentioned in the past that in 2010, China flooded the market to really kill all the competitors in the rare earth mining industry. Where was the World Trade Organization during this period? And how did that play out and how does that set the chess board for China to run the tables?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. So the WTO stepped in when China cut off rare earth exports from Japan, I think it lasted for about 40 days because the US and Japan protested the WTO, and they stepped in and China resumed exports. While I'm not an expert on these trade matters, one thing that I am aware of is that one of the reasons why China had to resume the export of rare earths was it did not legitimately need all the rare earths for domestic consumption. So therefore it was a nefarious act, if you will, to cut off rare earth exports. Now that has changed, which means China have to cut off rare earth exports today, they have a legitimate case to say that they require these materials. There's a shortage of these materials and they require them for their own domestic purposes. It is the backbone of their economy and there's very little we could do about this today, which is why it's becoming an even more urgent issue.

Ryan Morfin:

And the US government started stockpiling some of these after that incident. Can you talk a little bit about what DOD and DOE has done to start making sure that there's not a critical supply shortage going forward, and is it enough?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, again, there is a national defense stock pile, and there are materials still that the United States needs to procure in order to shore up its stockpile. There are magnets, the finished magnet products as well, the United States government needs to stockpile. Again, there's a limited amount that the United States government has. It requires approval from Congress, whether it's in the NDAA or other approvals from Congress, to allocate monies for the national defense stock pile of these materials. That being said, there's no endless supply of these materials. And unfortunately, the apparatus, the way it's set up right now with the US government, it's going to continue to require having a secure supply chain of those materials for many, many years to come. So it's not a question of stockpiling for 10 or 20 years, and then this complacency and saying, we'll kick the can down the road. But keep in mind as well, Ryan, that US government accounts for low single digits of overall rare earth imports into the United States.

Pini Althaus:

We're talking about defense contractors, we're talking about the manufacturing sector. The direct impact this has on the economy, jobs, the automotive sector, and others is significant. So it's not just limited to the United States government. If you look at over the past couple of weeks, the sanctions that China have put on Raytheon, Boeing, Lockheed, et cetera. I mean, the question is where are they going to get those materials? And if we go beyond that, you need rare earths for the 5G network. Now that Huawei has been banned from installing the network, not only in the US but other countries, we have to have the ability to get a secure supply of these materials as well. Which currently, again, trying to control the hundred percent. So it runs across the board, both for government, defense and manufacturing in this country.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, and so help me paint a picture for our audience. Does China have all the mines for rare earth, or they're the only ones who started mining it? Or are their mines globally dispersed and nobody's been doing the actual infrastructure to do the mining?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. So finding rare earth projects or rare earth elements is not the difficult part. It's finding them in significant quantities that makes a project economically viable. And part of that consideration are the environmental rigors that companies in the West have to adhere to. And China, even by their own admission, have had a complete disregard for mining these materials and even for processing these materials. And in fact, just the last week or so, the BBC did an expose on this, 60 Minutes has done an expose on this. But the Chinese have not denied this and have talked about cleaning up their act, but it has an effect on the bottom line for what the costs of mining and processing are if you have no environmental standards to adhere to. So China have exploited those rare earth projects they have, primarily in inner Mongolia, and have brought a number of projects online and quite quickly, and in a significant way, with a complete disregard for the environment.

Pini Althaus:

So it was seen as an environmental no-no in the West for many years. Now, what's happened over the past few years is you're starting to see rare earth projects in different parts of the world sprout up. You've got the Mountain World project in Australia owned by Linus, which is a producer of Nd and Pr, neodymium and praseodymium. So two of the light rare earths. They may have some heavy rare earths coming online at some point in time. And you've got Arafura, which is another company in Australia that we're working with to assist them with their processing so they don't have to send the materials to China for processing. But really these are a drop in the bucket for what the requirements are for the United States. And certainly what the requirements are for allied countries, the EU, et cetera. So there is a race, if you will, worldwide to start bringing projects online. The Chinese are very active in trying to secure assets outside of China.

Pini Althaus:

So in Africa. They have ownership of a project in Greenland. So there is somewhat of a race. The Australian government has stepped in and has started limiting the ability for China to own, or have ownership in, or off takes for the Australian rare earth projects. And that's part of the strategic Alliance between Australia and the US. Canada, similar thing as well. There are a number of projects that are looking to come alive, but these projects are, for the most part, will take many, many years to come online. We have to expedite the process. We have to assist with a [inaudible 00:14:41] supply chain and the domestic rare earth sector, because previously investors have been scared off by things like China flooding the market, which is not a possibility at this point in time, given that China can't actually afford to flood the market. They are already very heavily subsidizing their mine to magnet supply chain there.

Pini Althaus:

This is more now a case of being able to get production from non-Chinese sources so that the United States and allies have a viable, secure supply chain of these materials. And it's a concern worldwide. We speak to governments all over the world, and we're all facing the same issue. Some more than others, especially countries like Japan, that don't have their own rare earth projects there and are reliant on Australia where they've made some investments there. And in the United States, they've made an investment recently in Africa. So there is this race, if you will. And I think we've got a five-year window here to at least stand up a few projects worldwide. Otherwise we've lost this race and we will be dependent on China for many, many years to come. And Ryan, it's a bit of a hypocrisy. If you look at it where you've got materials going through clean, green energy applications, like electric vehicles, wind turbines, et cetera.

Pini Althaus:

That we're sourcing these materials from China, where they've, again by their own admission, has been complete environmental devastation to water bodies around these mines and processing facilities, to the communities. People have been getting sick around these projects yet we're putting these materials into our electric vehicles or wind turbines. It makes no sense at all. And people are starting to wake up to this. And that's why the sector is starting to see a lot of support come out of Congress and bi-partisan support. And in fact, it's one of the only bi-partisan issues right now in Washington. And it's good to see that some things decided to move in the right direction.

Ryan Morfin:

And is there a special process? You talk about the expense, is it really difficult to mine these? You have to go through a special chemical process to extract and clean and purify. Is it a lot harder than, say, gold or silver or some of the other, we'll call, more traditional elements?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. It's all about the processing to some extent. So if you look at MP Materials in California, which used to be Molycorp before they went through their bankruptcy. They are a miner of Cerium and Lanthanum, which are two of the light rare earths, the lower valued light rare earths. Given that they do not currently have processing technology, they are sending those materials to China for processing where China is tariffing those heavily. Linus is also, they're doing their processing work in Malaysia and elsewhere. So it's really about the processing at this stage. One of the things that we've done, after we put out our PDA last year with our upgraded resource, which now includes a significant amount of lithium. We make a decision that, based on the test work that we had done around our processing methodology, that we were not going to send our materials to China. That it's paramount for us to do this work in the United States and in a collaborative effort as well.

Pini Althaus:

We've been asked by some of our investors, "Well, why would you be looking to help other projects with their processing?" And the answer is simple. There's no one project or one company that's going to put China out of business or make a dent, or somehow be able to take care of the overall demand worldwide for rare earths and critical minerals. And it's very important for us to have processing capability in the West. So that was the impetus for us opening up our own rare earth and critical minerals processing facility earlier this year, which we did in Wheatridge, Colorado. And in fact, we've made some significant progress on the method that we're using for this. And we're starting to collaborate with Australian companies, Canadian companies. We're currently talking to a group over in Europe as well, because this has to be a collaborative effort.

Ryan Morfin:

How does Europe solve for these problems? Do they have this better under control than the US?

Pini Althaus:

No, they're in a far worse position than we are. The EU commission recently put out a report, I think, a couple of months ago that the requirement for rare earths is going to increase tenfold within a short period of time. Lithium 18 times. They don't really have rare earth projects. Again, there are the Greenland projects, which people have heard in the news recently. Those need to further development work so they don't have rare earth projects ready to come online there. There are a couple of lithium projects that are spread around Europe, but for the most part, Europe is in an even more precarious position. If you look at Germany with the auto manufacturers, you look at the big companies like ThyssenKrupp and others, all these countries and companies are looking for alternatives to China, because we've already seen in the news about China withholding or reducing exports of some of these rare earths that are required for these industries.

Ryan Morfin:

And you mentioned earlier the regulatory posture of the US makes it difficult to mine. Is it becoming a more bi-partisan issue that we need to maybe relax some regulation around the mining exercise, to incentivize private sector to come in and start producing this? Or is the Republican party versus the Democratic party on two separate pages of music?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. Good question, Ryan. I mean traditionally the Republican party is obviously being more pro-mining and in favor of less regulation when it comes to these things. With regards to our project, we're on Texas state land. So we don't trigger federal environmental permitting at this point in time. And obviously Texas being Texas, a mining state and oil and gas state, things are a lot easier in Texas than they are on projects on federal land where the Bureau of Land Management controls the environmental process around that. But the thing is here, and I don't want to step into what other companies are doing, et cetera, but we do need to be reasonable about allowing projects to come online if they're adhering to environmental standards that are acceptable worldwide. And what we do know, is that China is destroying the environment and cities and water bodies around their mines and processing facilities.

Pini Althaus:

We have standards here in the United States, and I think what we need to do is make it easier for companies to mine, while at the same time protecting the environment. And there are ways to do that. And we're definitely seeing buy-in from Congress, from both sides, with regards to looking how we can stand up a secure supply chain. And, obviously under the Obama administration, they had very strict regulations when it comes to mining. And that's changed under the Trump administration. Hopefully what we start to see is some normal middle ground that'll allow other projects to come online.

Ryan Morfin:

And typically in these rare earth mines, is it amalgamation of different minerals that are all consolidated together and you have to separate them out? Or do you ever find pure play, Europium, I can't even pronounce some of these. Gadolinium, Cerium. I mean, are they all mixed together and you've got to filter and sift them through, or are they pure play mines?

Pini Althaus:

No, they're generally they have a mix. So they're polymetallic projects. They have a number of different materials. Some projects, you more to what we call the light rare earths like MP in California or Linus in Australia. Our project is actually on the opposite end of the spectrum. We have a very high concentration of heavy rare earths. That being said, we do have to go through a process of separating these materials. But the case of our project where we've got 30 materials. We're not going to produce 30 materials. We're not going to market 30 materials. So what we're doing is we're focusing on the key materials that are marketable, that we need for permanent magnets, lithium as well, and working on the separation and the optimization of those materials in particular. But we're all faced with the same processing challenges and that is something that can't be set.

Pini Althaus:

There's no easy way to do this. There are different technologies that have been used in different parts of the world. So predominantly there's a process called solvent extraction, but it's big, it's bulky, it's not benign. It's a bespoke solution for one particular project. So it doesn't work for feedstock from other projects. What we've done is we're using a processing technology that's actually been around since the 1940s. It was part of the Manhattan Project. It's called continuous ion exchange. In fact, the Chinese use it to increase the purities from 99.99 to four nines, five nines, and even six nines. So for some applications you require higher purity levels. It's a far easier processing method to scale up and to take feedstock from other projects. In fact, we've demonstrated for the Department of Energy that we can take coal waste from Pennsylvania and do high purity separation of rare earths using our processing methods. So it's not a step that can be skipped unless one needs to send it to China for processing, which is not going to help us with our objectives here.

Ryan Morfin:

How many other, we'll call it, going concerns on any other businesses that are doing this, that are trying to, I guess, start the development of these mines. Are you guys one of a few or are you one of many? And is it an international or just a US game? Who's leading the charge at going after this?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, well, I'd say the Australians are leading it outside of China right now. You've got some really good projects in Australia. Again, more skewed toward the light rare earths. There's one more heavy rare earth project in Australia, which is not yet producing. The United States, you've got MP Materials, you've got Ucore in Alaska, you've got the Bear Lodge project in Wyoming, which is also another light rare earth project. So as far as a heavy rare earth project that looks like it will come online in the near term, that would be our project. In Canada there are a couple of projects there as well, and again, more skewed toward the light rare earths. But we really need to get as many of these projects online as possible. Because again, I don't see it as competition. We all have a problem doing supply agreements or offtake agreements for our materials.

Pini Althaus:

In fact, one of the things that we're going to have to consider is looking at potentially scaling up our production, based on the demand that we're already starting to see. And I think other companies would find that as well. So it's all about the economics of the project. You have projects that were economically viable back in 2012 or rare earth prices with 35% or so higher than they are today, and are not necessarily viable today. So that's the challenge as well, economically viable projects. And we've got to get as many of them online as possible. It takes many, many years. I mean, our project has had over $70 million put into it to get to where we are today, and we're close to getting to the production scenario. It all revolves around processing at this point in time.

Pini Althaus:

We'd be very happy to see another couple of projects come online, because this is extremely important for national security and for the economy as well. I mean, if you think about it, Ryan, if you've got a billion dollars of rare earth materials, that translates into a trillion dollars or I should say trillions of dollars of finished product. So you've got a magnet in your phone there that's worth a couple of dollars and the cell phone's a thousand dollars. And electric vehicles and defense applications even more.

Ryan Morfin:

Yeah, everyone has one of these iPhones now, and there's tremendous amounts of rare earth on the circuit boards here. And I think people take it for granted that that supply chain is not secure right now. So one question for you, there's talk of this maybe medium term to longterm, but there's talk about mining in space. Do you think that's a feasible option in the longterm, medium term? What are your thoughts on that?

Pini Althaus:

No, that's just ridiculous. I mean, we're trying to find ways to make mining on earth economically viable. I think the cost of going up to space would be more than what our capex will be bringing our entire project into production. I mean, we've got about a 350 to $400 million capex to bring 130 year mine life into production. I'm not an aerospace expert, but I think sending a rocket, building a rocket ship and sending it up, I think maybe on the fuel alone, you could bring a couple of projects into production. So unless we have a fortunate situation or an asteroid lands on earth, and fortunate if it lands somewhere where we don't care, I don't see how that happens. And if it's big enough, it's a problem as well. It's nonsense. And even, options aside of the deep sea mining for rare earths, I mean, you've got all sorts of environmental issues around that as well. I think we need to look at projects that we can bring online, that can be done so in an economic way, that can be done so in an environmentally responsible way.

Pini Althaus:

I mean, one of the things that we've done at our project is we've got in excess of 60% of the materials that have come out around top, will have a clean green energy applicability to them. So we're using the benign processing method. We're going to be using renewable energy on site. In fact, we will likely be putting a solar farm on site as well. We've talked to a couple of companies that have approached us about that, and we'll be a net producer of power for the surrounding area. So there are ways to do it which don't affect the environment. Obviously if there's a project that's situated on a sensitive area, that's a unique situation for that specific project. We've seen it with the Pebble project, which is not a rare earth project. The Pebble project in Alaska where their environmental concerns is we've been recognized by both Republicans and Democrats, but we have to be reasonable about the projects that don't have environmental concerns.

Ryan Morfin:

So Pini, in season two, we ask all of our guests a series of six questions. They're usually, yes, no questions, but trying to take a survey of our conversations. And if you want to add a little context to the yes or no, feel free, but here goes the first question. If there was a COVID vaccine available today, would you take it?

Pini Althaus:


Ryan Morfin:

Who do you think is going to win the election?

Pini Althaus:

Which election?

Ryan Morfin:

The US election.

Pini Althaus:

Well, I think it looks like Joe Biden's going to win it, but I think what happens, if we go past January six from my understanding is that the house will vote on it and it's one vote per state. But I don't know if I see it getting there at this point in time. I really don't have a crystal ball.

Ryan Morfin:

Third question. What type of economic recovery are we in? What type of shape is it taking? A V-shape, W, U, L?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, I think 2021 is going to be challenging. I think we've been, and rightly so. I mean, we've had no choice as of almost every other country. We've been printing money for the past year because of COVID. And I think we've got to brace ourselves that, at some point in time, the chickens come home to roost. It was a necessary step. People needed it on an individual level. Businesses needed it as well, but I think we've got to do whatever we can to stimulate the economy, give people confidence to go out and work again, employ people. So I think we've got to watch ourselves, especially in 2021. And I have some concerns, but long-term, I think the approach in the United States is a healthy one.

Ryan Morfin:

During lockdown this summer and quarantine, was there anything in particular that you accomplished that you're particularly proud of?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah. A great amount of family time, which, if you would've asked me a few years ago if I could sit at home and be at home for six months, I would have told you absolutely not. I wouldn't be able to do it for six days, but it has... I'm sure it's done this with a lot of families as well. It's brought families together. We had a baby actually last year on Thanksgiving. So I was doing a lot of travel at the time and thought I wouldn't get to see my daughter in her first year or couple of years too often. And being home with her every day is actually been just the most amazing experience. So thankful at least for some silver lining in COVID.

Ryan Morfin:

Are there any silver linings that you see in the economy going into 2021?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, I think we've gone through an absolute beating and it looks like we've got the ability to come out of it. And I think that's a testament to how strong the economy was built up in the years preceding COVID. So overall I remain an optimist. I mean, we are a country built on opportunity and going out and making it happen. And we're not a socialist country sitting and waiting for people to send us paychecks or wealth distribution or anything like that. I think the American dream still lives on. I think if you go out and you're willing to work and put your head to it and heart in it, I think we do have the ability to climb out of it. So if we look at what the economy is doing over the past few weeks, it looks like it's starting to rebound. And to me, that's assuring because it could go completely one way as well.

Ryan Morfin:

And the last question is, is there anything that you're watching, or listening to, or reading today that has been impactful on your thinking that you'd like to share with our audience?

Pini Althaus:

Yeah, that's a good question. I think it's been more personal stories. The news, I sort of take that in context or with more than a grain of salt. In some cases stay off the news channels for a number of days at a time, it became quite repetitive. But I think on the personal side, talking to friends, my family's all back home in Australia, they've just come out of 110 day lockdown, which we can't relate to that. It's been very trying on them and seeing the fortitude that they've had to come out of that and stay intact. I think the mental health issues that will come out of COVID are going to have a far longer effect than the economic issues. I think we're going to have to focus on mental health issues in this country for a long time to come.

Pini Althaus:

The impact on kids has been significant with regards to lockdown or remote schooling, et cetera. But to see people come through it. I think it's a testament to people in general and to the country and other countries as well, to see got that fortitude and survival instinct to try to get through whatever adversity we can. So hearing the personal stories, the challenges that people have gone through, I think it's made me a lot more aware of things that I have to be thankful for and where we can help out other people as well. I think we have to be united going forward because there are things...

Pini Althaus:

I think one of the things that COVID has shown us is we can get into this complacency and life goes on and we go one day to the next. And all of a sudden we get hit by something that affects everybody equally. I mean, COVID, whilst there were groups of people, whether it was the elderly or people with underlying health conditions, that got hit the worst. I mean, we all got hit in some form or another. So really, this should be something that unites us, not divides us.

Ryan Morfin:

Well, Pini, I appreciate you coming on today to talk to us a little bit about the supply chain crimp on rare earth and we'll definitely keep an eye on it and would love to have you back in the future.

Pini Althaus:

Thank you, Ryan. Thanks for having me.

Ryan Morfin:

Absolutely. Thank you. Bye-bye. Thanks for watching Non-Beta Alpha. And before we go, please remember to like, and subscribe on Apple podcasts and our YouTube channel. This is Non-Beta Alpha, and now you know.


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