published Thursday, July 21st, 2011

The other economic vision

In a city that grew up as a manufacturing hub and that has proudly revived that heritage with the arrival of advanced new industries, the political and Chamber of Commerce focus on attracting the next big manufacturers on the coattails of Alstom and Volkswagen is understandable. But just as technology is driving smart manufacturing that needs fewer and fewer workers, it also is driving cities to look toward a redefined economic future where mainstay jobs will depend increasingly on innovation and knowledge-based skills, and on the amenities that will attract the entrepreneurs of the future.

Small wonder, then, that Mayor Ron Littlefield was at a Wednesday luncheon to introduce Dr. Norm Jacknis, the strategic think tank director of Cisco Systems, a global leader in the sphere of computer networking, communication and collaboration that will create many of the jobs of tomorrow.

The occasion at the Loose Cannon wasn't a Chamber event. Most of the crowd were younger, casually dressed advocates and entrepreneurs connected to the start-up tech companies here that are quietly blending innovation, jobs and far-flung clients in precisely the way that Jacknis suggests will become the base for the best future jobs.

Jacknis' message, laid out against current trends that connect advanced multinational factories across Asia with global distributors and customers, is irrefutable. It is also central to the city's exploration of how to take advantage of the gigabit capacity now available through EPB across its multicounty service region.

Chattanooga is now the only city in the country, and one of the few in the world, with communitywide gigabit Internet capacity. But in 10 ten years, or not much more, that unique attribute will become commonplace. And as it does, innovation in a range of fields -- education, medical practices, security and an untold array of service and manufacturing businesses -- will mushroom, transforming the traditional cohesive synergism of old-style, factory-based cities. This community's future will be shaped by how well and how soon we learn to exploit and market our gigabit advantage.

Jacknis predicts that as telecommunications capacity matures, individuals, not big companies, will increasingly become the key unit of economic activity. Innovators, entrepreneurs and data-and-communication-driven workers will be able to live anywhere in the world they want and still stay in close virtual/video contact with widely dispersed bosses, customers, clients and coworkers.

Outsourcing and contracting will transform economic activities and jobs. Real-time, large-scale video meetings and personal and group discussions will facilitate a range of remote, interactive activities: medical diagnosis and surgical training, university lectures, business meetings, design seminars, artistic performances and the mechanics of supply chains.

Jacknis' and Cisco's efforts at divining the future of economic growth and activities over the next 10 to 25 years suggests that businesses will "cluster globally, not locally." As they do, Jacknis believes the economic success of cities will be measured not in the total revenue of their companies, but by the wealth in the pockets of their individual residents. In turn, cities will thrive according to the quality of life they provide, the innovators they attract, and the ongoing stream of ideas and education to which their residents are exposed.

The pace of this transformation may be debatable, but the trajectory seems to be clear -- and accelerating. For starters, it should compel local officials -- especially the County Commission, the key player in local education funding -- to double down on education and to make technology funding a priority. It's hard to imagine the intransigent, old-think County Commission funding an Internet-friendly surge in schools that would put laptops in the hands of every student by the time EPB has hooked up enough routers to make countywide wi-fi a reality. But that might well spawn some of the local innovators on whom our economic future relies.

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timbo said...

First of all, what in the heck does Harry Austin know about business? Has he ever ran a business? Made a payroll? Created something for nothing that generates wealth? Hell no.

What he did do was go to a seminar and hear of all the sustainability pinheads who are partially responsible for our industries going overseas. Most of this is hogwash. It reminds me of the Holiday Inn Express commercial where the guys says "I am not a business man just a mediocre liberal editorial writer but I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Here it is simply. Countries become great powers by becoming great manufacturing powers. The examples in this century are Britain. Britain was a manufacturing power and used that income to become a world power. In the early 1900's Britain's manufacturing waned and the United States took over as the major manufacturing power and started loaning it's trade surplus cash around the world. It happened again because China has now taken over this role by financing our debt and taking over our manufacturing sector. This was from wrong headed right-wing idiots pushing "free trade" and left wing imbeciles using "sustainability" and global warming and regulation to mess with small business. A smart move would have been to protect our vital industries and through traditional means and get a tax system that rewards small business investments and taxes big business fairly.

Local stupidity was giving away the farm for VW which is absolutely unconstitutional for government to pick the winners and losers, and spending over $500 million dollars on a downtown that according to this newspaper only generates 1/5 the tax revenue it takes to pay the debt service. That's right people. around $10 million per year comes right out of your pocket into the pocket of government sponsered "business" people. All the while, downtown development was going on, according to the Bureau of Labor statistics, 20,000 manufacturing jobs went down the tubes. All the while, patting yourselves on the back for being a "smart" city. What a crock or manure. This kind of article just shows how out of touch with reality people like Austin are.

It doesn't really matter now because our economy is too far gone. It cannot be fixed. The best thing you can do as a business man is horde your money and get ready for the coming depression. A lot of people made a lot of money in the depression. I have no sympathy for the herd of liberals and conservatives heading happily towards oblivion.

July 21, 2011 at 10:52 a.m.
nucanuck said...

timbo, assuming you are hoarding your money, what makes you think that your investments or dollars will be worth anything as the US dollars moves toward extinction?

Share with us your strategy for surviving the economic conflagration that awaits us.

July 21, 2011 at 12:27 p.m.
timbo said...

Why don't you read a couple of books about the depression. As far as "sharing", I've tried that for years without much success. I was involved with politics and spent money to do research these problems and inform the public. All I have gotten is ridicule and disdain. As bad and as wrong as the "experts" have been, people still fall for their crap. We have a president with no, I mean no business experience surrounded by professors who have no practical knowledge. He is an insult to anyone out here creating jobs and trying run a business.

I have heard from the politicians that we must do something about the deficit for our children's future. Philosophically that is correct but neither party gives a damn about doing it correctly. You can argue economic theory with professors and community organizers and Harvard MBA's but you can't argue with arithmetic. So I am going to protect my children and their children. Since no one will listen, I don't care about your children, it is your responsibility to take care of your own.

From a personal standpoint, I hope Obama and the Republicans keep kicking the can down the road and spend money like crazy. If inflation hits, I will raise prices to compensate. You will have to pay. I just need another 5 years and I will be set. Because of the public's ignorance, unwillingness to face reality, and trusting these lying politicians you have made your own bed.

July 21, 2011 at 2:46 p.m.
nucanuck said...

timbo, if you think you have five more years to prepare, you've got a problem. If you think inflation is is the principle danger lurking, you've got an information deficit.

From your post, you seem to have an inkling, but not deep insight as to the road ahead.

July 21, 2011 at 6:04 p.m.
timbo said...

choice is yours inflation in the short term problems ,total disintegration society is the long term problems . I might have an in 4 mation deficit , let the actions I take to protect myselfare valid . it is quickly becoming every man for himself .

July 21, 2011 at 7:03 p.m.
JoeHill said...

Did Thomas Friedman write this editorial?

July 22, 2011 at 9:48 a.m.
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