How Much Math Does An Econ Major Need To Know Current Affairs: The Next American Economy by William Holstein Technology Clusters and Ecosystems

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Current Affairs: The Next American Economy by William Holstein Technology Clusters and Ecosystems

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent in June 2011. This number remains frustratingly consistent each month as millions of Americans struggle to find work.

Clearly, many of the jobs lost over the past few decades, and during the Great Recession of 2008, have been extinguished. It is said that the definition of insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing but expecting different results.

The government’s stimulus packages and expanded unemployment benefits are features of what William Holstein, author of the new book, “The Next American Economy-A Blueprint for a Real Recovery,” identifies as the structural challenges of the American economy. Holstein has traveled the United States writing about globalization and the economy for leading business publications.

How will our country reinvent its workforce for the 21st century, and in which industries? Holstein believes that our economic renaissance lies in technology clusters and ecosystems.

Below is a cross-sectional synopsis of America and how it is being revitalized with technology clusters and ecosystems. Also discussed are the lessons for all Americans that Holstein shares about the country’s current economic challenges.

Technological Clusters

Clusters promote knowledge sharing and product innovation. They also support technical and business processes by providing thick networks of formal and informal relationships between organizations. Clusters usually occur by accident and are difficult to create.

Orlando’s technology cluster is based on simulation and computer modeling; and is rooted in part by the decision by the US military and major defense contractors in the 1950s to locate operations in the Orlando area. Disney’s influence on computer games and entertainment is also influential. Every cluster needs an idea factory, and Orlando has approximately 140 research and development companies located near universities. The “cross-pollination” of ideas is easily promoted. Simulation and modeling are being used in multiple industries. Healthcare is included as it uses virtual reality to help rehabilitate stroke victims.

Pittsburgh is reinventing itself from a steel city (the mills are non-existent today) to one dominated by advanced robotics. Making advanced robotic systems is complex and challenging. They overcome performing repetitive tasks in a car factory, which is simple and closed automation. The nascent industry doesn’t have a Google or Apple presence in the city. But, area universities, engineers and government are among its partner clusters, committed to seeing the industry thrive and create new jobs.

San Diego is home to more than 600 life sciences companies and 700 wireless communications companies. In the 1970s, science and medicine rarely collaborated. Today, the combination of biotech know-how and massive computing power helps San Diego dominate medical research and development, including genomics. The opportunity is great for “creative collisions” between students and university professors, business leaders and local government. San Diego has a high percentage of risk-taking entrepreneurs and venture capital funding, which is continually pursued to spark new technological advancements.

Ecosystems

Technological ecosystems are factories of ideas that embody different scientific and academic disciplines located in close proximity. They include the presence of large established companies that often invest in start-ups, license their technology and/or sit on their board of directors. CEOs mentor less experienced small business leaders. Government agencies are partners, but companies do not rely solely on them. Angel investors and private sector investors are also key players. There are no guarantees in any ecosystem.

North Carolina has left behind the furniture, textile and tobacco industries. Today it is a state whose small and medium-sized companies are betting on exporting, which is key to creating economic growth, wealth and jobs. Companies that export typically pay higher wages and stay in business longer. Holstein says exporting is a huge untapped economic potential. The US export promotion and financing system is fragmented and ineffective. North Carolina is succeeding as agencies at the local, state and federal levels work together to promote exports. They provide information to small business CEOs about trade shows in foreign capitals. They also play matchmaker with potential distributors and customers, and help companies translate their sales materials into local languages, among other things.

Atlanta, like many U.S. cities that rely on manufacturing for economic viability, in recent decades has relied heavily on offshoring and outsourcing to cut costs. Today, the city exemplifies companies that are returning operations to American soil, a trend known as “backshoring.” This is especially true for high-end technology, telecommunications and healthcare organizations. Going around the world to modify production and design changes is expensive and time consuming. Shipping costs, complicated logistics, political unrest and the threat of intellectual property theft are also motivators. Atlanta’s ecosystem of regional governments, universities and supplier and logistics experts are among those committed to revitalizing the area’s job market.

Cleveland is at the forefront of America’s 1,200 community colleges for workforce training. Cleveland’s strength is retraining displaced workers in their forties and fifties, a population hit hard by global employment trends. Current and future workers need a superior set of knowledge-based skills to be competitive; and Cleveland offers. The city’s community colleges treat education less like a business and more like a school, allowing the unemployed to quickly transition into viable new careers. Cleveland’s education ecosystem includes local business leaders and government officials. Community colleges can often be more flexible than four-year academic institutions. Funding flows from federal, state and local government, as well as private foundations.

Lessons for all Americans

Holstein concludes that America is the center of a global economy and competitive pressure is permanent. He believes that we are a culture of creativity, innovation and freedom. Our comparative advantage is our ability to outperform existing technologies by being disruptive. To maximize this advantage, future generations will need to master math and science skills. It is the only way to thrive in a knowledge-based economy. “This is a defining moment for America, similar to the Great Depression, when we had to summon a new vision for our future,” he says. “I truly believe that we can regain the optimism that many seem to have lost.”

To stay up to date on the upcoming US economy, visit http://www.williamholstein.com.

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