One word that we are hearing a lot now days is globalization. When I was growing up (Gah, I hated when my dad started a story / lecture with those words), the economic competitors were mainly seen as the north or other regions. A lot of the prejudice I saw was due to fear of people taking our local jobs. In the south, jobs were hard to come by. Now the competition is from other countries.
Thomas Friedman’s World is Flat really opened my eyes. It made globalization less something to be feared and more a force to be dealt with. We will be very smart to work with it and not fight it because it is going to / has happened. Now our job is to use it to our advantage.
We raise a cry when a company outsources jobs to another country. I hate to see people lose jobs, but it gives us a chance to review our skills and hopefully find a better use for our skills. But what do we call it when it is outsourced here? BMW, Michelin, several companies that I can not spell, have built major plants in our area though they originally started overseas. The same thing we condemn in local companies has been a huge benefit for the region, We have a great opportunity to sell our area and people as the great assets they are for any interested companies. We have the creative and intellectual pool that any company can benefit from.
I was blown away when Friedman opened my eyes to the populations of some of our major competitors. The population of THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (thank you very much) was 309.9 million as of 2010. (So if you are one in a million, there are still 309 of you.)That is good enough to be the third largest population in the world. China’s population estimated for 2010, 1.3 BILLION. Over 4 times as large! No wonder they can find the cheap human capital that is useful in manufacturing. India, which seems to be concentrating on developing as a customer service hub, had 1.1 BILLION.
So how should we look at this? Should we throw our hands up and stick our heads in the sand? The business and entrepreneurial spirit in this region will not let us do this. Plus, there are just too many great opportunities for those who look for them. Instead of looking at the 2.4+ billion as competitors, though they are, look at them as potential opportunities / customers. How can we reach them? Cheap prices won’t do it. Quality? The American mystique? Making a reputation for our area (The Spirit of the Great Smokies)?
Our region already has been defined. How can we maximize it?
Also, as other economic markets grow, they will be better sources of customers. It should be our goal to help developing nations grow as that will help us grow in turn.
There are three concerns that these opening markets cause. The first is ethics. We are seeing that they often have a different set of rules or principles that they play by. Our desires for equality and rights are not universal. A huge problem that we have had with working with China and others is that they do not protect intellectual property when dealing with foreign entities. This is a basic business foundation to allowing companies to operate within your borders.
Second, human rights. We will not go into that here.
Okay, there are a lot more, Quality control. Finding lead and heavy metals in paint for baby cribs that were shipped to America is a huge cause for concern. Can we really check all the cargo containers that come through our ports?
The flattening of the world can be haunting, exciting, scary, isolating, and a whole host of other emotions. But it is something that our region will have to take hold of and use to continue to grow and be leaders in the world market.
(Populations from worldatlas.com for 2010)