Can America Restore Its Competitive Edge?

The Wilson Center hosted a panel discussion this morning focusing on what government, business, and educators can do to restore U.S. competitiveness through long-term improvements in the K-12 education system and public policy. The event brought together five experts for a dialogue led by moderator David Wessel, Chief Economic Correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.

The panel discussion highlighted the importance of manufacturing in U.S. competitiveness. Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, pointed out that advanced manufacturing is not only essential for the U.S. economy, but also for national security. Deborah Wince-Smith, president of the Council on Competitiveness, added that stimulating the growth of manufacturing hubs and clusters will help spur innovation and progress within the industry. Two of the most significant problems that need to be addressed are outsourcing and the shortage of skilled labor.

Combating outsourcing can be done through changes in corporate tax policy, Business Roundtable President John Engler asserted, such as simplifying and reducing it. This will give businesses more incentive to stay in the US. Paul Vallas, former superintendent of schools in Chicago, Philadelphia and the Recovery School District in Louisiana, adds that not only do changes need to be made at the federal level, but also at the state and local level, especially with entitlements and tax policy.

Jan Rivkin, a professor at Harvard Business School, explained that a less restrictive immigration policy can bring in a large influx of skilled laborers that many firms need. Engler pointed to heightened partisanship in politics during the last few years for keeping a comprehensive immigration policy from being pushed through Congress.

The panelists also agreed that reforms in the education system can address the shortage of skilled labor. Vallas asserted that the K-12 education system in the U.S. has failed to evolve, and identified two major issues – the school days and year are too short, and the teachers are not good enough. As such, the education system needs to be modernized and given more flexibility to adapt to changing demands. He suggested that we bring a “free enterprise system” to education; pay STEM teachers more, pay excellent teachers more, pay mediocre teachers less, and fire incompetent teachers.

A full webcast and podcast of the event is available on the Wilson Center event page.

Posted by: Pokyee Yu

Sources: The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Photo Credit: David Hawxhurst/WWICS


Live Webcast Tomorrow: Can America Restore Its Competitive Edge?

This event is by invitation only but a live webcast will be available here at the time of the event.

Can America Restore Its Competitive Edge?

What will it take to rebuild wealth-generation and innovation in the U.S.? What are the roles of government, business, and educators and what changes must each of them make to reverse the decline in US competitiveness?


Introduction by The Honorable Jane Harman—President, Director and CEO, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

Norm Augustine—former CEO, Lockheed-Martin, Chair of the National Academies Gathering Storm Committee and author of Rising Above the Gathering Storm

John Engler—former Governor of Michigan, former President of the National Association of Manufacturers, and currently President of the Business Roundtable

Paul Vallas—former Superintendent of the Recovery School District in Louisiana; former CEO of Chicago Public Schools and the School District of Philadelphia and active in restoring schools in post-earthquake Chile and Haiti

Jan Rivkin—Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Business Administration Unit Head, Harvard  Business School

Deborah L. Wince-Smith—President, Council on Competitiveness

David Wessel (moderator)—Chief  Economic Correspondent, Wall Street Journal

 Wednesday, March 28, 2012

9:30 to 11:00 a.m.

Woodrow Wilson Center, 6th Floor, Joseph H. and Claire Flom Auditorium

 The National Conversation at the Woodrow Wilson Center series provides a safe political space for deep dialogue and informed discussion of the most significant problems and challenges facing the nation and the world.

Asian Economies Take the Lead in Global Manufacturing

Asian economies are on the rise in manufacturing capabilities according to a joint study by Deloitte and the U.S. Council on Competitiveness.  Of the  five highest ranked countries, three are in Asia, while the United States sits at number four.  China and India scored the highest, with South Korea directly above the U.S.

The report, the “2010 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index” identified certain driving factors of manufacturing such as talent-driven innovation and governmental policy.  The index was based on the responses of over 400 chief executives around the world.

Asia, as the study demonstrates, has become the manufacturing epicenter of the world, with co-author Craig Giffi stating that “ What had been the world order in the second half of the late 20th century, is giving rise to new manufacturing paradigms.”

The U.S. and western European countries on the other hand are slipping, with 2015 projections seeing the U.S. falling to number five, being overtaken by emerging Brazil.

Posted by: Michael Darden

Sources: Deloitte

Photo credit: MADE IN CHINA.jpg courtesy of flickr user christophercozier

A Competition Competition

The Business Accelerator for Southeast Michigan (composed of four Michigan-based business accelerators) recently announced the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, an international business plan competition designed to fuel innovation-based business growth.  Considered the world’s largest business plan competition, it will expose local and global entrepreneurs to  potential opportunities and financial incentives that can lead to long-term growth.

While the competition is mainly geared towards those already in the private sector, there is also a component strictly for students enrolled at a college or university in Michigan in which the grand prize winner will be awarded $25,000.  The competition started on August 24 and will end with an awards ceremony in Ann Arbor on December 11.  While the competition is Michigan-centric, if successful the plan could be seen as a way to help speed the transition to innovation-based economies both regionally and nationally.

Posted by: Wesley Milillo

Sources: Accelerate Michigan, PR Newswire, Time, Xconomy

Photo credit: From Lake Michigan courtesy of flickr user christopherdale

Enhancing Competitiveness Through Regional Cooperation

While certain regions of the U.S. have weathered the storm of the recession better than others, there are still areas that continue to struggle.  On June 30th, the U.S. Council on Competitiveness released a report on regional innovation clusters to explore this discrepancy and to offer advice on how to increase global competitiveness through embracing regionalism.

The report emphasized that currently defined political jurisdictions serve as a major barrier to regions fully capitalizing on their economic potential.    “While there are many barriers to acting regionally in the United States,” the report argued, “first among them is that economic regions and political jurisdictions are not coterminous.”  In a Washington Post column, Roger K. Lewis cited the regional cooperation in the Washington metropolitan area and argued that reaching agreement between all of the county and municipal governments is akin to “herding cats.”

In order to best mitigate these problems and take full advantage of the potential of economic regionalism, the report argued for “effective regional leadership” that relies on “existing regional organizations that can set agendas, call meetings, (and) recruit new leaders, etc.”  Calling to mind a familiar phrase, when discussing regional cooperation Lewis argued that, “together we stand, divided we fall.”

Posted by: Joshua Nickell

Sources: The Washington Post, The U.S. Council on Competitiveness

Photo Credit: The U.S. Department of Commerce

Innovation, Manufacturing, and American Competitiveness

For the United States to maintain a strong manufacturing base in the face of an increasingly globalized world, it is critical for it to remain highly innovative.  Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and the U.S. Council on Competitiveness recently partnered to release the 2010 Global Manufacturing Competitiveness Index to explore how nations can achieve superior manufacturing competitiveness.  The report contains results from a survey of 403 CEO’s and senior manufacturing executives who rated talent-driven innovation as the most important indicator for increasing manufacturing competitiveness.

In addition to the findings of the survey, the report concludes that, “the global competitive landscape for manufacturing is undergoing a transformational shift that will reshape the drivers of economic growth, wealth creation, national prosperity and national security.”  The study also notes that manufacturing will continue to be an essential source of employment for years to come.

Posted by: Joshua Nickell

Sources: U.S. Council on Competitiveness, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu

Photo Credit: Motor Manufacturing on flickr Commons courtesy of The National Archives UK Photostream