Archive for the ‘THE GREAT RESET’ Category

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ENTREPRENEURSHIP

October 2, 2012

I know I am only seeing the surface and a controlled story, but I like what I am seeing and hearing from the University this morning.

“We were established to serve the needs of the people,” explained President Kahler, when meeting with the US Department of Commerce regarding a new program at the University of Minnesota.

Kahler’s message of “The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University:  Higher Education, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship in Focus” explained turning campus research into community business as it fits in a land grant university’s mission.

I like that.  It does indeed, seem to reinforce the mission from whence we came.  I, too, applaud Minnesota’s use of business people, not academics, to staff the Office of Technology Commercialization and a program designed to streamline the sale of intellectual property right to commercial companies; I’m impressed with the success ratio of the U’s start-up companies; and I like the experimentation with “entrepreneurial leave”.

It is only one article about the attention our University gained in Washington Monday…but it feels like a peak at some 21st century thinking and how we can reinvent ourselves to remain leaders in the world as we move forward.

That is refreshing after this long, long year of political debate about “hanging on” to what we once excelled at.

And just a fleeting thought crossed my mind as I finished the Strib article….I’m sure the “Ultra Entrepreneur” Mr. C would be pleased with this news.

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THE OPPORTUNITY OF THE CENTURY

August 10, 2012

Yesterday, as I wrestled with “unemployment” and why the law of supply & demand were not working to meet the needs on both sides of the issue, the review of Friedman’s  “The World is Flat” reminded me  of that key concept “Our Job is to invent the future while everyone else does what we’ve already invented.”

So many applications in today’s world could (and should) reflect that, but top of mind is an article I read this week in THIRTY TWO, written by Guy Eggers entitled “The Opportunity of the Century: China hits the Great Wall and the Midwest looks ahead”.  To do justice to the thinking behind this piece, one should read it in its entirety at www.thirtytwomag.com , but essentially the world (and specifically China) is following the US lead in economic development and will need to eventually reset, just as we are now doing.

He reminds us of movies and news pundits of the 1980s that depicted scenarios of the Japanese running the world and future space wars with the Soviet Union in the 2000s.  In other words, don’t get caught up in the scare tactics – Just like Japan and the Soviet Union, China will not overtake and conquer the US.

He reminds us that our economy is at least twice the size of China, our closest competitor; our military is “light years” ahead of all others and our navy is larger than all the world’s navies combined, which puts us in control of global sea commerce; and are uniquely positioned at the center of the world’s largest trade routes and we have a stable and growing population.   In short, “it is easy to forget that we currently live in a world that has been shaped by American ingenuity and ideas.”

And with that, he builds his case. 

Eggers carefully reveals some basic cracks in the China façade. …too many people who are too poor to buy any of the goods they produce so cheaply…If the state cannot offer increased prosperity, the whole system could be put into question….the nightmare created by one-child policy of 1979, with an emphasis on male children will create a massive gender imbalance with 30 million more men than women by 2020.  Not only will this upset societal norms towards women, and may lead to males fleeing China in search of wives, but familial culture is heading towards one single male responsible for 4 grandparents and 2 parents dependent for care and support upon that one single pampered male, who at the same time has incredible pressure to succeed, and very little disposable income.  In short, the inexhaustible supply of cheap labor that supported China’s  growth, will soon come to an end – leaving economic distress and political unrest…and there’s more.

Eggers goes on to explain that although China owns 6-8% of our debt, that represents almost 20% of its GDP…all that it has earned in selling goods to us has been reinvested in us, but the numbers show we need not fear them as they have a huge stake in seeing the United States succeed….it is already the most polluted country on the planet with an economy less than half the size of the US.  The total cost of outdoor air and water pollution (respiratory diseases, cancer, shortages of water) represents 6% of China’s total wealth and production… a real estate bubble  is about to crash with almost 40% of  China’s GDP state owned and growing…and finally, Chinese companies operate on profit margins of 1-2% – not the 30-40% of US companies.  It is sustainable only if cheap labor and the right to pollute continues.  If wages increase, the business model will break.

Per Eggers, the problems of our biggest potential rival in the world far exceed our own. The problems we now face are not insurmountable.  The end of China’s dramatic growth also signifies the end of old ways of doing business that no longer make sense.

Having addressed the misperceptions that most of us have regarding China, Eggers then focuses on the future.  “The Midwest with its reputation for ingenuity, hard work and common sense will be a t the helm of the recovery of the American Dream”.

Eggers acknowledges the structural issues still to be addressed in the US, but counters with the idea that we have an opportunity that presents itself only every century or so.  An old system has failed, resistance to change is down, and there is an urgent need to create something new.

He ends by issuing this challenge:

Rather than keep supporting a system that is fundamentally broken, we should harness the collective spirit and creative energies that so define this great nation to create a new business paradigm that truly reflects our values and vision for the world and that will lead to renewed growth and sustainable prosperity…let’s not leave this to the banks, the oil companies and the Chinese to build…Let’s get back to creative, innovative, and smart.  Let’s build the world that we would like to see, together.  We have done it before and we can do it again.

If you ponder the legitimacy of Eggers vision of opportunity, read the August 8 STRIB article entitled “Bubble bursts in China’s shipyards”  and, like me, you may ask the question…could we be seeing the first “crack”?

 

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WHEN TRUTH BECOMES FICTION…or does it?

August 1, 2012

I’ve just become a subscriber to THIRTY TWO, a new magazine in the Twin Cities. 

First, let the founder’s words explain the name.

If you are from Minnesota, thirty two is your number, not only because it is the point of freezing.  At Thirty Two, we also see it as the point of thawing, where movement and life begin and new things are on the way.  It just so happens that Minnesota is also the thirty-second state of the union-a gentle reminder that it’s about time that we claim our place in contemporary America.

I like that thinking.  This called for a bit more investment of time before I by-passed the magazine.

Inside the front cover, I saw a picture and a note from the founder, entitled “why we matter”. The first paragraph caught my attention with the sentence “Far too much of our day is dominated by products and services designed to add convenience where authenticity has been lost”.  That and a quote from Tom Brokow warning us that it won’t help to “wire the world if we short-circuit our souls” and I was well on my way to being hooked.

Her read and interpretation from an outsider’s perspective  of the “Meet Minneapolis” message of WHY US made me smile…but this statement made me listen up:

Don’t get me wrong; everybody who moves here is well advised to learn more about the more subtle aspects of Minnesotan culture. But if we really want to open up our region and boardrooms to U.S. and international transplants, if we want  to become an international city, we need to be aware that insisting on this discourse serves neither them nor us in creating a common sense of place.” 

YES!  That story may attract tourists, but it does not serve us as well when trying to grow our city – to achieve that dream of becoming a world class city.

She closed with the following, and I was hooked.  I sent off a request for Issue One and a subscription for a year.

We are here to bring the beauty and authenticity of print back to your coffee table.  We want to capture the magical side of life in the Twin Cities and tell stories beyond the news cycle.  And we want to make sure that we are a platform for ideas and visions to make this an even more vibrant place, one that newcomers can readily access.

How could I resist when this clearly appeals to all about which I am passionate?!!

The first issue arrived yesterday…right on the heels of my learning that Jonah Lehrer, author of IMAGINE – How Creativity Works has admitted he made up a lot in the book.  What?  I have just finished, not only reading this book, but carefully making notes in the margins of all the new things I was learning and wanted to remember!

So I was pretty excited for something new to take my mind off all that I had just wrongly stuffed in my brain.

I tore open the envelope…yes, I like the paper selection and the binding format; I learn the focus of this issue is creativity; I look at contents.  The article titles are intriguing, although I am already sure the one entitled “Fall of the Creative Class” is either wrong or about something other than that picture painted by another favorite of mine, Richard Florida.

Not so fast, Cheryl.  The Frank Bures article DOES INDEED refute Richard Florida. Oh my, in one week, two author’s works that I thought were beacons of light to me are now being held up as fraud.  This may say something more about ME, than it does about the authors.  And if Florida  was wrong about the Creative Class, what about the GREAT RESET….also resting on the corner of my desk, as I have been using it as the explanation and crutch to explain the Great Recession.

This definitely requires some careful scrutiny and perhaps some re-thinking of things, but a cursory look through the rest of the magazine makes me think this is still a good choice….their vision of houseboats on the Mississippi is pretty fun, and  how could you miss the next issue with teaser topics of focus including New here, So what: How transplant enterpreneurs are shaping Minnesota’s new economy; Made in Minnesota: The explosion of heritage brands”; and Inside the Current: How a radio station shaped the identity of the Twin Cities”  ?

All that arriving August 30, and I have a whole lot of thought-provoking and perhaps life-changing articles to get through before then. 

If you are not on board, you need to be.  Subscribe to Thirty Two  so I will have friends to discuss it with!

 

 

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A CHANGING LANDSCAPE

July 23, 2012

Readers of this blog are aware that over the last seven months, I have become absorbed in a new way of thinking-initially because of my introduction to Charles Landry’s “The Art of City Making”.  Landry did a residency here in Minneapolis/St. Paul in early May which I participated in as part of the Plan-It Hennepin project.

It was an eye-opener for me in many ways…and once that happens, one sees signs and applications everywhere one looks.  And sometimes I forget that everyone in my world does not see it the same way I do.  That was evident earlier this week, when a friend of some thirty years and I had a discussion on immigrants in Minnesota.  Our perspectives, coming from different directions and viewpoints clashed resoundingly.  We survived the discussion of conflicting ideas, and I resolved to keep in mind that not everyone is celebrating the changes I see.

So, as I glanced at the STRIB headline on  Sunday  “A Changing Landscape” and realized it was a story of Somali immigration and impact in outstate towns such as Willmar, Rochester, and Faribault, I reminded myself that friends and family in those three towns might indeed view this very differently than I do. It will be painful to some and encouraging to others, and for all, a bit of a cultural shock.  Not everyone in my world has the benefit of learning and beginning to understand the importance of interculturalism in our 21st century world of globilization as presented by Landry, nor the Richard Florida theory of economic reset we are now experiencing.

Nonetheless, as I took in the message, I thought it should be a welcome change – if understood.  The “reset” after the Great Depression created the move to the suburbs…as we ”recorrected” once again, and the excesses of the late 20th century pushed that migration further and further into the surrounding countryside as exurbs developed.  And with that came suburban malls and big box stores, and more and more super highways…and that left empty buildings and department stores in the core, and eventually, the central city blight so many of our cities have experienced.

The article began by recounting that Main Streets in many smaller Minnesota communities have not fared so well in the last 25-30 years, and the growth of immigrant populations and business are …a shot in the arm…an economic development program.  But for long-time residents, it’s a big change, and the old community they long for will never be again.

It is hard for those residents to see strangers they know nothing about move into their towns…and for the most part, judging from family discussions, I understand they see them as “different”, “troublesome in schools” and a little bit scary.

 It is easy to miss that immigrants of any color most likely have the same qualities our own immigrant forefathers had….otherwise they would not have risked the move.  They are entrepreneurs, they create businesses and therefore jobs; they resurrect stores and services needed in the core;  and over time their businesses include law offices, insurance agencies, and real estate offices…all services needed in a community; they pay taxes;  and yes, they bring a different look and perspective to disrupt our comfort level.  

I was encouraged to read the perspective of Royal Ross, director of a program called Faribault Main Street.   He understands that it is a hard adjustment for residents in a small town….”it is a cultural shock to us a little bit…it’s neither good nor bad.  It’s just different.”

And his example of differences is one that we all can understand.  Large groups of Somali men tend to congregate at day’s end, on Faribault sidewalks, a common way to get together and exchange information.  But they are speaking Somali and not moving out of the way for others walking by.

Ross mentions that the white locals are not used to seeing large groups congregating in public areas like that…and that we need to get used to how each other operate.

 So, of course , I understand:  because it is different, and since the group is “not like us- white and speaking English” –it becomes intimidating.  We forget that through much of our own US history, citizens, like citizens of countries all over the world, did/do that in the Town Square …which disappeared from our own cities in the last 50 years, along with the downtowns.  It is why discussions in city-making in MSP continue to focus on creating “intercultural gathering spaces”. 

 Losing that face-to-face interaction has not been good for our country. Somehow, the staged networking events in a sterile indoor gathering space, complete with speakers and name tags and mixer games and superficial conversation exchanges do not accomplish the same thing.  We should learn from those Somali gathering, not fear them!

So despite the misunderstanding, I will continue to advocate for the move to intercultural planning and understanding, and will view the separate article reporting on racing camels and ostriches at Canterbury  as a little “intercultural creep” as we experiment and try “new” things as a baby step in the right direction!

 

 

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THE ECONOMY, THE ELECTION, and the PRESS

July 13, 2012

Again today, there is a report in the STRIB that a broad range of expert economists and forecasters  expect the economy to improve slightly in the coming months…with expectations that it will pick up through the summer and into the fall.  Although there are still barriers to the RAPID recovery we all WISH FOR, the “signs” all continue to point to a slow gradual recovery over a long period of time.

Yes, this is exactly what was initially projected when we experienced the WORST DOWNTURN in 70 years (read: the Great Depression) .  Yes, for a short time, we had a country, a press, and the pols all agreeing that this was a RESET – A NEW NORMAL – that the experience of recent years was UNSUSTAINABLE.  We almost accepted that a long recovery was a reality, and in fact, allowed that the reset needed to be accomplished by the PEOPLE not the POLITICIANS.  We talked about not only national but personal debt; we talked about the cost of the continual advancement to the exurbs, homes that were growing bigger and bigger, but more importantly, infringing on farmland – land that was needed to FEED the ever-growing populations of the world. And equally important, those in outer ring suburbs and the exurbs were showing a flicker of understanding that they could not possibly pay enough taxes to support the infrastructure they demand to support those outposts – and perhaps they should consider how the government could be expected to pay it, if they were not willing or able  to pay the taxes to make it happen.

And then, Obama won the election and all reasonable discussion flew out the window.    We spent almost two years strategizing how to make Obama a one term president, JUST BECAUSE…not because of the economy.  We were still too close to the reality of the cause of the mess (read:  some pretty bad policies on the part of the Bush Admin and the neo-cons that moved an economic readjustment to a need for a RESET) to blame it on Obama. And Obama missed an opportunity to be honest, to rally the country, and call for a commitment on everyone’s part, to work together through the DECADE ahead to get the country back on a safe track forward.

And soon, the Republicans started to run for President – just think how many were in the mix in the beginning!- and “It’s the Economy Stupid” became the battle cry.

Only it isn’t-at least in the way we are talking about it and judging success…and I refuse to believe that even the Republicans – supposedly the business experts, the economic experts and the war experts- do not know full well, that this economy does not have a short term fix.   And if they truly DO believe this, then there is the reason not to vote for them…because if they do not recognize what has happened to this country, then surely, we should not put the recovery in their hands.

Meanwhile, I also do not understand the Democrats.  In the end, laying it out, sharing the truth and showing the country there is no easy fix has not been attempted.

No, I have come to believe that all this angst and name-calling to the extreme, and refusal to work together has it roots in the live media coverage. Both Republicans and Democrats want favorable press – and for some reason, the press who depend on RATINGS not an actual fix for our problems have more influence than those we elect to serve us.   And so, we as a country have been sentenced to this continual babble that makes no sense about the economy….and  there will be no winners – at least until we are honest with ourselves and realize our politicians do not walk on water.  Neither side has a quick fix.  Only the people of the United States can fix this…and make the politicians and press follow… for as long as it takes.

Unfortunately, in a few months we have to vote for someone…and I’d rather have someone in charge that is moving slowly forward than someone who is taking advice from the same folks that gave advice to Bush.  About the only thing another 8 years of the neo-cons pulling the strings on an empty suit puppet guarantees is more wars paid for on a credit card.

 

 

 

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THE GREAT RESET – A NEW WAY OF LIFE

June 30, 2012

Except for some exceptional boom periods, housing has never been a good financial investment.”  Richard Florida; The Great Reset

                                                                                                                                                                                                       

It used to be the business of America was business.  Now the business of America is homeownership.  To recover and grow again, America needs to get over its ‘house passion’. “  Edmund Phelps, Economist

                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Among people of similar financial status, those who chose to rent in 2004 had more wealth in 2009 than those who bought their homes.”  Wendell Cox, Suburbs and Cities:  The Unexpected Truth

                                                                                                                                                          

                                                                                                                                                                      

 

The Strib’s “Big US Cities Boom as Young Adults Shun ‘Burbs’ “ headline caught my attention this morning. The accompanying  AT A GLANCE Box reported:

  • Primary cities in large metro areas over time grew more than surrounding suburbs.
  • City growth in 2011 surpassed or equaled suburbs in 33 of the nation’s top 51 metro areas, compared to only 5 in 2000-2010.
  • 52 of 73 cities over 250,000 showed faster annual growth in 2011 than their average growth in the last decade.

 I assumed, hopefully, that the article was reporting evidence that the Reset that has to come from grass roots had begun and now had been noticed by the press.   I should have known better.  The press are, of course, still back in the 20th century with the politicians.

The story reported that young adults were “spurning homeownership in the suburbs for shorter-term no-strings-attached apartment living, public transit, and proximity to potential jobs in larger cities “– not as a part of the Reset, or the New Normal, but because nothing has been done about the weak job market, high unemployment, delayed careers, a college debt burden and availability of only lower-wage positions.

The authors assured the audience however, that economists believed this city boom was only temporary,  because, after all, the last time people moved to the cities was prior to 1920.  Ah yes, that was the spatial fix caused by the Long Depression of 1873, wasn’t it?  Then we got out of control again; crashed in 1929, headed into the Great Depression of the 30s; experienced a second reset and spatial fix as people moved to the suburbs that lasted well into the 60s.

And here we are again.  Another crash in 2008 and we are now looking for the spatial fix to slowly end the Great Recession. 

I hope I am right and the Strib is wrong.  I hope this spatial fix does not peter out; we need it to become a grassroots happening so we can move forward.    If the stats are correct, I could be right and we could be moving in the right direction.  If we are, do you think the Press and Pols will come along with us, or will they prefer to stay in the safe world of the 20th century?

 

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SPATIAL FIXES for Ecomonic Recovery

June 24, 2012

According to Richard Florida, one of the key things that has to happen to recover from a generational GREAT RESET comes not from top-down policies and programs  (see Blog of June 18) but does come gradually as millions and millions of people respond  to challenging economic  times  by changing the very way they live.   

This is called a spatial fix.  It happened in the Long Depression when movement was from farms to cities; it happened in the Great Depression when people moved from dense cities to inner ring suburbs.

And then as the economic bloat began, we moved to poorly-built McMansions in outer ring cities, and then we created the exurbs and demanded infastructure to follow.  Florida postulates that when the people determine this is not sustainable and begin on their own to migrate once again to smaller spaces, to consolidate along transit lines and turn their backs on exurbs and unsustainable and expensive super highways, we will have begun the real start of the economic recovery to move us out of the Great Recession of the 21st century.

So the STRIB’s headlines” Housing’s comeback spurs new building”/”House construction sees modest, focused comeback”caught my attention and infused a little hope into my day.

It seems builders are putting new emphasis on areas close to jobs and existing highways.  And even more important:

,,,the developments have a different flavor than those that boomed before the Great Recession:  Smaller and concentrated in places where jobs, transit and major highways are already nearby…in contrast to the rural cornfields that became subdivisions in the mid-2000s.

And the flip side, says the Strib, is stagnation in the exurbs.

YES!  That’s a good sign…and maybe there is even hope that the Minnesota snowbirds – who mostly are upside-down in their winter palaces- will not have ready cash to negatively influence this natural adjustment of the people.  Although what some will do without elevators in their garages, I just don’t know.

So, I am not holding my breath, but I will be keeping an eye out for additional signs that support the spatial fix.  I can only hope that it will “trickle-down” and things like buying a soup bone for $1.59 a pound that yielded less than 2 ounces of meat (read: equivalent of $23 per pound) will also slowly be adjusted.  Until then, I guess I will buy a small sirloin when I make  my soup – it is cheaper!