In late September, I flew from the collegial atmosphere of the IAMC Professional Forum in Minneapolis-St. Paul directly into the global beehive that was the G-20 Summit in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pa.
Coming from a conference full of close personal and professional relationships, informal networking and practical knowledge into an atmosphere of international financial diplomacy could have been a shock to the system. But it wasn't. For one thing, they'd been training us for many weeks in Pittsburgh: This is the perimeter. Don't do this, and don't do that. It's best to work from home.
So we were ready. Really ready. It was a virtual festival of readiness, with heavy security all around us, and everybody waiting for something to happen.
At Alcoa, even if we'd wanted to, we couldn't have gotten into our building. We had selected a location where we could meet if the work was deemed critical, but basically we all were working remotely for three days, which made things a bit more difficult for those of us used to our company's open-office atmosphere. Unlike the IAMC Forum I'd just left, there's wasn't the usual informal, face-to-face contact you get every day.
But while it might have been a bit inconvenient, it was a great demonstration of how big a part technology now plays in business continuity. We know now that if something did happen, we would be able to run our business. Meanwhile, world leaders were able to get some things done too. And we all feel more of a sense of accomplishment when we can get things done during a period of difficulty.
The IAMC Forum in the Twin Cities was right on target for what is going on in the world today. Not only was the program's subject matter compelling, but we were offered the tonic that the Forums always offer: It's like getting together with family. I sensed a strong current of determination, of people under difficult economic circumstances doing everything they can to return profitability to their organizations. There was a lot more sharing of information, a spirit of "we're all in this together." We are trying to get things done, and we're doing so with hope and optimism.
I'm delighted to be serving IAMC members as your new chair. Internally, as with the world around us, we are undergoing change, and you'll continue to see things change as we look towards the future with a focus on innovation, creativity and flexibility.
After all, at IAMC, through good times and bad, one thing we don't do is wait around for something to happen.James Martin
merica's hidden advantage in the new world economy will be its "post-ethnic future," noted demographer and writer Joel Kotkin told IAMC.
The author of "The City: A Global History," Kotkin said that two trends, more so than others, will shape the future direction of the U.S. economy: regional immigration patterns and the movement of buying power from cities to suburbs.
Addressing IAMC during the luncheon session Oct. 7 in Minneapolis, Minn., Kotkin gave Professional Forum attendees a glimpse of what's to come in a presentation titled "Looking Ahead: A Cash Economy, Immigration and the Future of the Country."
The three most important global trends to watch, he said, were these:
″ Growing economic and financial power in the developing world.
″ Growing influence of Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin immigrants in local economies.
″ U.S. emergence as the world center of a post-racial economy.
"The U.S. has healthier long-term demographics than most of its competitors," said Kotkin. "The U.S. is the only advanced country with a large, growing population. North America has the second largest energy resource base in the world; and our economic system is the most resilient among advanced countries."
The U.S. is growing faster than all other developed nations primarily for two reasons: higher birth rates among the native population and higher rates of immigration.
Also driving economic growth will be America's advantages in both land area and buildings. "We have 180 million acres of arable land in this country – the most of any nation in the world," said Kotkin. "That is an enormous resource. At the same time, by 2030, half of the buildings in which Americans live, work and shop will have been built after 2000. The oldest building stock ever in the U.S. is the one we have now."
The result of this aging inventory is obvious, he noted: the U.S. must construct more buildings, and that will add even more economic growth.
Still, he said, immigration will dwarf farming and construction in overall impact on the economy. "Our post-ethnic future will be our hidden advantage in the new world economy, as immigrants drive the next 100 million population growth by 2050," Kotkin said. "Immigration is driving American demography. In 1990, we had 19.8 million foreign-born people in this country. By 2002, that number had increased to 32.6 million."
At the current rates of population and immigration growth, the U.S. will become a "majority minority" country by 2050, said Kotkin. "California, Texas and New Mexico are already majority-minority states. But the new Hispanic magnet states can be found in the Southeast and Central Plains. They are states like Georgia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota and Kansas."
The fastest-growing Hispanic markets in the U.S. right now are, in order, Greensboro, N.C.; Charlotte; Raleigh, N.C.; and Atlanta.
"Forty percent of immigrants move directly to the suburbs," Kotkin said. "The San Fernando Valley in California is now the Mestizo Valley. Fort Bend County, Texas, is 21 percent Hispanic, 21 percent African American, 12 percent Asian and 41 percent white. The diversity of Houston's fastest-growing suburbs will increase."
What does this mean for the economy? Kotkin said to expect the following trends:
″ Fast-growing retail markets among ethnic groups and immigrant communities.
″ A new generation of homeowners and entrepreneurs, led by multi-racial Millennials and their parents.
″ Powerful ties to emerging economies in Latin America and Asia.
"If the U.S. ethnic purchasing power was represented separately, it would be the sixth largest national economy in the world," Kotkin said. "If the U.S. Hispanic purchasing power was represented separately, it would be the largest Latin American economy."
At $653 billion in 2003, U.S. Hispanic buying power surpassed that of Mexico ($626 billion). "Ethnic purchasing power in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1990," said Kotkin. By 2009, total ethnic buying power in the U.S. had topped $2.5 trillion.
To illustrate his point, Kotkin showed a slide of the top 10 homebuyer surnames in California. Only two were not Hispanic or Asian.
"The Millennial Generation is the most diverse in American history," he added. "Millennials, those ages 25 to 34, are the largest single group of homebuyers in America, and we are finding that increasingly these households are the product of a mixed-race marriage. In fact, mixed-race is now the fastest-growing designation in the country."
Kotkin told IAMC that "what it means to be an American will change. People will hold onto their culture, but they will become more American. The American culture is a globalized culture. It is open and unsupervised. America has always been based on economic optimism and growth, and that will not change."
For his final predictions, he offered these thoughts:
″ America's ethnic orientation will be radically different in a generation.
″ Latino, Middle Eastern and Asian influences will increasingly impact America's cultural life.
″ "Americanness" will remain a key factor driving immigrants toward citizenship as a more diverse U.S. becomes more, not less dependent on united aspects of a national culture.
"They are us," he said, "or soon will be."
— Ron Starner