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Innovation Is Key

September 27, 2017

History will show that every time the United States’ free market system was met with economic crisis, innovation and technology was ushered in at the 11th hour to save the day. Our great nation and its free economy have faced over forty-seven recessions since its conception. Advances in farming technology allowed us to overcome the challenges an economic engine, which depended on agriculture production in the late 1700s. After the Civil War, it was the race to connect America coast-to-coast that spurred on the age of the railroads. Evolutions in manufacturing processes and the spread of available electric power allowed for hard goods to cost less and be readily available on demand in the late 1800s.

After World War I, it was the ignition of the automobile industry that transformed the way we travel. Globalization was a result of World War II, which followed the aches and pains of the Great Depression. The airline industry age of the 1960s and the computer age of the 1980s—all heroes which save our nation from the brink of economic disaster. The Information Age of the 1990s and today’s Digital Age provided significant employment opportunity and replaced many of the lost jobs of yesteryear, allowing for those that lost their previous career position a chance to transition to new employment. Behind each revolution was technology and innovation; conveniences that allowed us to do things better, faster and at a lower cost.

Today, our country faces yet another critical fiscal crisis. Economists that provide statements that were are not in a recession are dead wrong. Our nation’s debt is the highest in history, with the U.S. Debt Clock now showing a U.S. National Debt of just over 17 trillion dollars in the red, and a total U.S. debt just over $61 trillion dollars in the red, it does not take an economist to realize that we need innovation and technology once again to step up to home plate and hit a home run. While Wall Street might be on fire, experiencing record highs and seeing peak profits, it is a very different picture on Main Street U.S.A. In order for our national debt to be cleared today, each U.S. citizen would have to cut a check for $56,000, and each taxpayer would need to shell out another $151k for us to clear the slate.

The White House and advocates on the hill are calling for a national increase to minimum wage, raising the current hourly rate from $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour. Participants in the “Minimum Wage Economy” labor force want $15 per hour. Skeptics and the opposition to the minimum wage hike argue that such a large increase will slow down the even slow economy and deter small business owners from expanding their operations or hire any additional help. Advocates for the minimum wage hike say that the majority of the available jobs are minimum wage low paying entry-level jobs, jobs that cannot sustain the very households that provide the labor. Both sides of the argument are still missing the bigger picture . . . even by raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour is not going to make an impact on paying down $17 trillion in national debt.

My question is this, if we demand a higher standard of wages or revenue, then why are we settling for mediocrity? Are going to undermine the value of a tradesman or professional who spent years refining their craft or expertise so that we can feel good about giving everyone and “equal” footing? What about demanding a strong national industrial policy that breaks all the barriers that are holding back new job creation from industry sectors relating to technology and innovation? Why are we not considering sun setting regulation that stifles small business and deter them from hiring local employees instead of penalizing them for frivolous victimless civil matters? Why don’t regulators sit down and coach small businesses on how to navigate through the regulatory landscape instead of crushing their dreams with over-burdened enforcement action? Why are we not revisiting trade policies that allow for the balance of fair trade instead of free trade? Most of all, why are incentives provided to companies that take jobs off U.S. soil and we over tax and over regulate the companies and businesses who choose to stay behind, because it the right thing to do?

I could go on and on about policy and the regulatory landscape, but in the mist of it, we need innovation to swoop in like Superman and save the day.

Technology and innovation that creates hard goods, hard goods that need to be manufactured, can provide employment opportunities for skilled workers who have had to settle for a minimum wage job. No other industry can provide for such saving grace than the green industry and the tech arena. With public policy mounting in line with the available selection of product lines aimed at environmental mitigation, energy conservation, and efficiency, are products and market segments which not only provide jobs, but economic benefits to consumers, if they embrace them. Early market adoption of community based, value creating technology will allow for yet another wave of local and regional job creation to take hold. In addition to skilled labor for manufacturing, the green industry provides a platform for accountants to provide energy audits and surveys. We have already seen the transition of construction workers who have become trained and readied to install solar and LED technology. Retrofit technology and innovation in the emissions industry and fuel economy movement offer jobs to technicians who lost their jobs during the General Motors and Chrysler dealer consolidations.

The new-found riches in natural gas, light sweet crude and advances in propane for auto gas (even with the controversial practice of fracking) have giving the United States the ability to replace foreign fossil fuels with domestic supplies. Other local businesses have been stimulated as a result of domestic energy exploration, such as trucking, construction and real estate. With massive reserves of natural gas waiting to be extracted, the U.S. now has a value export besides consumer goods to offset trade balances and debt. Coal still used in other parts of the world can still be mined from high yield areas such as Pennsylvania and Kentucky and can still keep these traditional mining jobs alive, yet again creating another commodity ready for export.

The digital media age still yields vast opportunities. Content creation and content management focuses on targeted users within a specific geographic and/or demographic audience. These jobs are jobs that can be filled with folks that base skill sets derived from journalism and traditional media backgrounds; marketing and advertising professionals, communication and cable industries; as well as workers from the computer era, retrained and updated on new technological delivery devices that give direct content to consumers. Behind the scenes I/T networking jobs are still in high demand; this time instead of tying together the web of desk top computers, it is become a job of mobile device management, integrating the thousands of apps and connecting tens of millions of end users. Design and functionality will continue to thrive as we the consumer asks for style, convenience, and information at the very tip of our fingers when we want it.

No matter the technology, innovation is the key to jump starting Main Street again. These jobs can fill local store fronts and vacant space. Main Street is counting on us to believe in it again. Micro industries and micro economies are a valuable tool to reinvent ourselves. With unemployment at an all-time high (sorry but the statistics do lie), all options to create free market free economy jobs need to be on the table. Who will step up to the plate and be the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, or who will be the next Elon Musk? Only time will tell, but one thing is for sure, as history will demonstrate, innovation will prevail just in the nick of time.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur who currently is the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management and systems integration. He is also author of the books, The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 3, 2017 1:10 pm

    I like some of the things you said in this blog, but I like to place the focus on “innovators” rather than “innovation.” innovators always come through because we are a self-correcting species, always learning and evolving. I have been collecting innovators like some people collect coins. I find them on YouTube in the form of ted talks or product videos. The solutions are out there and it’s very exciting to see.

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