Harvard Business School Prof Raises Alarm About U.S. Competitiveness

Randy NemetzThis week I read a short article in Fortune that really got my attention. It’s titled “The crisis in U.S. competitiveness can’t be ignored.”

In this article, Fortune business writer Tory Newmyer reports on a recent speech by highly regarded Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter. Porter was speaking in Charlotte, N.C., at an event sponsored by Duke Energy and Verizon, about some “very, very disturbing trends” he sees emerging in our economy.

The context of his view was based on his research on the fraying of American competitiveness. The evidence he presented was not a one-time fall, but a problem with U.S. productivity that he claims has been in process over the past 20 years. In short, he believes that U.S. industries exposed to international competition have created no new jobs for decades.

“This is a real, real issue facing this county and we’ve got to tackle it. We can’t hope that we’ll just have a recovery and things are going back to the way they were,” he said.

Porter’s research, which included a survey of 50,000 Harvard Business School alumni, lead him to the conclusion that American productivity is not strong enough to justify higher labor costs and other variables here in the U.S. He attributed the competitiveness problem to many factors, including the strides the less developed countries have made in education, infrastructure and improving governmental interference or corruption.

The take away from his message that is most poignant in my mind is that we in the U.S. are improving, but we need to improve much more quickly if we are to regain our former advantage in the world economy. In his view, the phenomenon of offshoring is not something that calls for blame. It’s just the way things work in a global economy.

This month, Northeast Ohio manufacturers have an excellent opportunity to learn more about exciting new global business opportunities at the upcoming NEO World Trade Conference, on Thursday, Sept. 27 at Executive Caterers. The half-day event includes a luncheon,  two keynote presentations, several break-out tracks on specific topics like Helping Medical Manufacturers Access Foreign Markets, Eurozone Impact on NEO Companies, Global Financial Outlook and Government Support for Exporters.

The conference is sponsored by Crain’s Cleveland Business and co-sponsored by MAGNET. Check out the conference agenda. I hope you’ll take advantage of this opportunity to learn from international business experts and to network with other developing global businesses.

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