Friday, December 16, 2011

Milken Institute List of Best Performing Cities

Congratulations to Charleston/North Charleston for moving from #19 to #11 on the Milken Institute's list of best performing cities. Greenville Mauldin Easley moved from 136 to 111. Columbia dropped from #65 to #113. Charlotte/Concord/Gastonia dropped from #65 to #114. Myrtle Beach was #128. Atlanta #145. Spartanburg #181,

The rankings are based on such factors as job growth, growth in wages and salaries, and growth in gross domestic product in high tech industries. Arbitrary, but interesting. You can see the complete list of 200 cities at

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Harvard Business School

The Institute for Competitiveness and Strategy at the Harvard Business School licenses a course called the Microeconomics of Competitiveness. The course has been licensed by 100 universities from around the world, including the Moore School of Business at USC. Ed Sellers and I had the opportunity to present the New Carolina story to the annual meeting of the group at Harvard on December 13.

The two day session ended with a review of Harvard’s US Competitiveness project. This project will be detailed in a series of articles in the March issue of the Harvard Business Review. The project surveyed some 10,000 graduates of the Harvard Business School. There were also 12 faculty members who addressed specific issues. The conclusions of the study were pretty grim.

Since 1980, America has experienced:
• Globalization of competition
• Countries with effective economic strategies
• Shortened time horizons
• Intense pressure on the middle class in terms of job loss and stagnation of wages
• Significant percentage in the upper .5% (5 % in 1977 to 18% in 2006)
• The cost of two wars

As a consequence, there have been unsustainable benefits that were primarily, but not exclusively, directed to the middle class:
o Badly thought out housing policy
o Retirement benefits
o Health care (Medicare and Medicaid)
o Cheap products from China, who is not competing on a level playing field

The problems are the result of choice, but not unstoppable forces. However, the federal government can’t seem to make even no brainer decisions.

Michael Porter said “Just do the math on the budget. We are a few years away from a real catastrophe.”

More on this subject in future blogs.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Smart State Conference

On December 4th - 6th, the SC Centers of Excellence (also known as SmartState) held their first national conference in Charleston. The Conference was titled "Realizing a Knowledge-Based Economy: Bridging Academia, Government and Industry."

The SmartState Program with its Centers of Excellence and Endowed Chairs is woefully under under-appreciated around the State. The program was established by the legislature in 1992. It was originally funded with $30 million/year from the SC Educational Lottery, to be matched dollar for dollar with money from other sources. The money was to be used to recruit world class talent to the State's research universities.

There are currently 49 Centers of Excellence with 41 endowed chairs. These Centers have resulted in over $1.2 billion dollars of outside investment and 7000 employees. There has been a six to one return on investment for the State. There are another 40 Chairs that have been approved, but State funds have been unavailable for the match.

SmartState put together an excellent conference program, with experts in commercializing research and the knowledge economy participating. Speakers included Saul Singer, one of the author's of Start-Up Nation, Peter Beattie, former Prime Minister of Queensland, William Symonds, Director of the Pathways to Prosperity Project at Harvard and many others. Thanks to Drs. Richard Swaja (MUSC) and Dr. Tom Kurfess (ICAR)and the SmartState staff for pulling together an excellent program. Thanks as well to the entire SmartState program for what they are contributing to the State.