Anheuser-Busch Briefing Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1615 H St NW, Washington, D.C.
Registration and Breakfast: 8:00 a.m.-8:30 a.m.
“In a dynamic world, there is no single way to approach an issue, and we must learn from one another in the process of trying to move the debate forward.” – Margaret Spellings, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation
The Business Horizon Quarterly (BHQ) is the Forum for Innovation's signature publication. Its purpose is to share informed insights on emerging issues facing the American business community. By asking questions like “what is growth?” and “what is innovation?”, the Forum aims to inform and to spur debate.
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From where I sit, it feels like the study of the liberal arts and the culmination of that education—the liberal arts and sciences degrees—are being challenged like never before. State governors, top business executives, and parents are questioning the end products that come from liberal arts institutions. In a recent Washington Post article, a managing director of a major financial management company complained that a liberal arts education mainly created “incredibly interesting, well-rounded cocktail party guests” but not graduates who are likely to find jobs.
Unfortunately, I think that a too-narrow focus on first jobs for graduates has these folks missing the bigger point—liberal arts institutions educate for employment, but they also educate for success. That’s the “plus” in our system, our game changer, and I will come back to that later.
I must say that the frustration of critics is completely understandable: unemployment rates remain high, and college education, already shockingly expensive, is growing ever more so. Students are graduating with unprecedented debt. People are concerned about the value—the return on investment of a college degree. It’s no surprise to me when high school students and their parents approach our admissions counselors asking, “So, what kind of job will Susie be able to get with her bachelor of arts degree?” or more pointedly, “Do you offer STEM education?”
America has a competitive advantage in energy compared to the rest of the world. We have some of the most advantageous natural gas prices, resulting from the growth of shale gas production. This wasn’t always the case. In the mid-2000s, energy intensive industries reduced production and closed facilities. Manufacturing companies looked for opportunities to move facilities to regions of the world with more favorable energy costs. Today, shale oil and gas has changed the outlook for “Made in America.” Fifty new major industrial projects have been announced, including petrochemical, steel, and fertilizer manufacturing.
The American Chemistry Council estimates that growth in manufacturing will entail $72 billion in capital investment and construction activity and a 7.3% manufacturing expansion. This growth will contribute 662 thousand direct and indirect jobs and contribute $342 billion to the economy.
Several studies look at the direct economic benefit of energy production. The economic benefit of abundant energy goes far beyond the immediate benefit of production and beyond the political rhetoric of energy independence. Energy abundance offers real opportunity to renew America’s manufacturing base.
Energy in Manufacturing
“The impact of Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” movement on not only how both genders conceive of their roles at home and at work, but also how employers approach cultivating female talent and building flexible work policies.”
“Growing shale oil and oil sands production, along with improving energy efficiency and alternative transportation fuels, such as natural gas, will exert downward pressure on oil prices. Oil prices could fall by 20% or more in a few years.”
“The abundance of mobile connectivity and computing power available in your hand. The explosion of tablets and smart phones is changing the ways in which we work, learn, play, and run our businesses.”
“The realization that the Internet, already the greatest tool of knowledge diffusion, is exploding some of the worst and most stagnant features of formal education, setting the stage for lower-cost learning and higher-value teaching.”
For several years now, there has been a lot of talk in the United States about “change.” Facing sluggish economic growth, a stubborn unemployment rate, and a business community uncertain about the future, there is no doubt America needs fresh, bold new ideas. But not all change is good—and not all change benefits U.S. businesses and workers or bolsters the country’s innovative and entrepreneurial foundation.
That is why America’s national imperative must be to develop and foster the game-changing ideas, innovations, and products, as well as skilled workers who can ensure U.S. growth and success for generations to come.
In the seventh issue of the Business Horizon Quarterly (BHQ), we explore the need for and emergence of real game changers who make progress happen. These inherently disruptive, creative, and empowering actors and actions are capable of helping industries, communities, and local, state, and national leaders to rise above long-standing obstacles to new heights of success and leadership.
For example, there is great potential in the innovation clusters and other research and development partnerships arising across the country and inspiring more students in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields that will help fuel the development of new technologies and products.
With the U.S. economy continuing to be stuck in idle and unemployment trapped at alarmingly high levels, it’s a good time to look for game changers—events, policies, and people that might significantly disrupt the status quo and propel the American economy forward.
To unearth those game changers, it helps to consider some of the nation’s history as a guide. As with earlier disruptive periods in America’s long-unfolding economic story, the game changers often come from beyond our shores. Simply put, we need to bring more of the world’s most talented people to the United States.
To understand why a new wave of skilled immigration might fundamentally change the game here at home, it’s important to understand what makes the U.S. economy unique. After all, a game changer for America might not work for a country like Japan, Sweden, or India.
Three things, when combined together, make the United States almost uniquely suited to benefitting from a wave of skilled immigrants.
The United States is the dominant nation today at the technology frontier. Given its size, the diversity of its work force, and its unrivalled research universities and technical institutes, American innovators are always pushing the technological envelope. This is true in areas as diverse as information systems and communications, biotechnology, manufacturing, energy, pharmaceuticals, and more.