The Next American Economy

Posted August 12, 2009 at 3:29pm

Last week, speaking from Elkhart, Ind., and Detroit, respectively, the president and vice president outlined a shared vision for economic recovery fueled by a renewed “spirit of innovation— — one that links job creation with smart strategies to foster U.S. competitiveness. [IMGCAP(1)]As the nation sets out on the arduous task of economic recovery, we must continue to develop this vision for the next American economy and focus on the long-term underpinnings of success, not just the day’s headlines. The question is, how do we get there?The lessons we’ve learned in upstate New York can be learned by America. GLOBALFOUNDRIES, and the larger Albany, N.Y., nanotechnology cluster as a whole, is a real-time demonstration of how to create advanced manufacturing jobs, build communities, and boost competitiveness.In July, GLOBALFOUNDRIES broke ground on construction of a state-of-the-art semiconductor manufacturing facility. The nation’s only advanced nanotechnology center, the GLOBALFOUNDRIES facility will create thousands of direct and indirect jobs here in America over the long term. This highly skilled workforce will seed innovation throughout the region and country as a whole. But this didn’t just happen by fortuity. Each of these jobs is the direct result of a shared commitment from business, state and local leaders; university research institutions; community college training programs; and research and development centers — all working together to create a community of global nanotechnology excellence in the upstate region, which itself will foster the very “spirit of innovation— necessary for economic prosperity and growth.As this New York example proves, creating long-term national competitiveness must be one of several distinct, yet mutually reinforcing, pillars constituting the foundation of the next American economy.First, we must link global enterprise and competitive markets with sound local and federal government policies. These linkages are critical in forging a shared commitment between business and government leaders on a prioritized set of key “ingredients of competitiveness.— Top on the list must be increases in funding for quality primary and secondary education. Increases in science, technology, math and engineering education are needed not only so that the U.S. can regain ground ceded to our foreign counterparts in recent years, but also to ensure that a new generation of scientists, researchers, and leaders emerge with cutting-edge knowledge and skills. In mid-July, the president made great strides in this realm, unveiling a $12 billion American Graduation Initiative designed in part to produce 5 million more community college graduates by 2020. With this highly skilled workforce, business and industry must work with state and local governments to develop an R&D and innovation-based infrastructure, which will help create jobs — particularly advanced manufacturing jobs — here in the U.S. We must also realize that underlying competitiveness is competition — the single biggest driver of innovation across all industries. Quite simply, you can’t have competitiveness without competition; artificially constrained competition hinders innovation — crippling our ability to be faster, better, and more imaginative.Multinational investment is another critical pillar of the new American economy. There is a crying need for long-term, patient capital to bolster vital industries like semiconductors, which require huge upfront investments. Global capital that helps create U.S. jobs is a sound approach to economic recovery.At the core of competitiveness are local communities. Leaders can develop sound innovation-based policies to incentivize capital, encourage regional commitments to attract business, and foster the establishment of a community based around a shared vision of economic strengths. These strategies, currently in place in upstate New York, are fundamental to the growth of businesses and the creation of jobs.The president’s and vice president’s remarks in Indiana and Michigan strike the right note. It is shared leadership — federal to local — that will lead to national advantage. Through this, we can ensure that today’s seeds of recovery come to fruition tomorrow, and for generations to come.Hector de J. Ruiz is chairman of GLOBALFOUNDRIES’ board of directors and chairman of the Semiconductor Industry Association Board of Directors.