EDITOR’S VIEWPOINT/A borderless war
In addition to addressing a borderless war on terrorism, our states and local governments now are faced with another war without boundaries, the results of which may profoundly affect the types of businesses and workers they attract. The soldiers on the battlefields are spread over local and international landscapes, but, more importantly, they have been equalized by a contagion of technology and a shift from industrial to knowledge-based economies.
Those two elements have vaporized the borders of competition, allowing talented people anywhere in the world to either contribute to the prosperity of cities and counties or compete with them. The new global economy allows numbers of complicated tasks to be performed as well and possibly cheaper by workers in other countries, who now don’t have to immigrate to capitalize on their skills.
As a result, our communities will have to compete more fiercely to attract talent, according to Richard Florida, author of “The Flight of the Creative Class: The Global Competition for Talent.” He has identified three forces working against local and state governments in the fight to attract the world’s creative workers, not to mention keep our own innovators here.
First, other countries that have been losing their top talent to us for generations recognize what it takes to compete globally, and with advancements in technology and a built-in price advantage — lower wages — businesses in India and China have been successfully displacing both lower and higher paid American workers. Those countries only add to the considerable list of industrialized nations we already compete with for talent.
Second, Florida says that we are not investing enough in ourselves or our communities. Our children’s education is lacking, the middle class is shrinking, and our cities and counties need billions of dollars to fix their ailing infrastructures.
Third, likely because of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, our society is more closed, and in some ways, more intolerant. As a result, he says that fewer international students are coming to America for their educations, which means that fewer eventually will be living here, as well.
Certainly in every economic transition, jobs change or are lost all together, but in the current trend, jobs aren’t just moving from the farms to the city, as they did during the Industrial Revolution. They are sailing to a foreign port. Worse, we are contributing to the problem when society defines a bargain as a $35 DVD player and overlooks the value of a good education or investing in strengthening families or rehabilitating neighborhoods.
The boundaries of our competitors should not be our concern, but rather the boundaries we set for ourselves. If we create communities with safe and attractive neighborhoods, talented innovative people will come and bring the business back home.