As the unemployment rate sputters along the bottom, over and over again we read in the headlines where some are having quite a hard time finding work, while others are being told flat out jobs in their industry are not coming back. Many towns and cities that once had thriving manufacturing centers have lots that have become nothing short of ghost towns. This outcome has been a long time coming, perhaps decades in fact. Then why do many of us still have a look of shock on our faces?
As the United States and hopefully the world pulls out of this economic downturn, one point we must accept is that the playing field has been changed forever. Why is this important? Because going forward whatever jobs or industries that are created must include the reality that those jobs can’t be exported or downsized. For example, what good is it if a company manufactures a product, hires workers, builds up an infrastructure and then five years later that company moves its operations to places where workers are paid one tenth the price and all the workers are laid off, or severely downsized, at best, until one day it’s “Closed Up Shop” time?
A friend of mine shared with me a story that I found quite interesting, one I’m sure you’ve heard from time to time. She designed and developed hand knit sweaters to be worn specifically by women. At first her business started slowly, and over time built up quite a clientelle. Many of her products were available at high end department stores across the country, until one day she noticed that the re-order list was beginning to go down. She visited one of the main stores that sold her sweaters. The buyer came out and asked her to accompany her to her office. Once in the office my friend learned that her products were being closely copied and manufactured overseas and sold at a quarter of the price. What many of us know today as “knock-offs.” Not quite the original, but close enough. Before too long my friend ceased operations. If the job recovery involves creating jobs that this can happen to, it is doomed to fail.
The challenge is to create jobs that cannot be easily duplicated at a lower cost, while at the same time making them accessible to an open world market. I heard the other day a financial expert say there are only three areas that America has that can’t be easily transferred at will. Silicon Valley, Entertainment, and Finance. Yes indeed, offices and subsidiaries can be opened around the world, but these industries are a lot harder to transfer at will. This list must be added to in order for a new economic boom to take hold. Not only in the United States, but around the world. We can’t allow ourselves to so easily become interchangeable parts, or nothing short of work ants.
There it is, for all the brilliant minds to ponder….The Challenge. Building a moat around the country, bolting the doors, and constructing fences is not going to help us one bit. The world has to be engaged with all forms of uniqueness. Each country has to develop a speciality that only they can do the best. Impossible? I think not. Ever heard of “Swiss chocolates?”
Face the challenge,
© 2010 Jennifer Avalon