The East Valley must think in global terms and must be prepared to compete in the world economy if it is to continue its economic success, said panelists at the Cox Communications East Valley Economic Forum on Wednesday.
"The single most important concept that we have to get in our heads is, it’s all about competitiveness," Arizona State University President Michael Crow said to the gathering of about 450 East Valley community and business leaders at ASU Polytechnic campus in east Mesa.
"We are a competitive, attractive place but we are not yet as competitive as I feel we need to be . . . given what lies ahead," he said.
Crow said that China could catch up to the United States economically within 40 to 50 years and "when China is competitive with our economy, they will be a force that we have never reckoned with."
He said creativity will be needed for the country to maintain its position and "continue to be the light for this planet. . . . We will need to have the smartest, most educated population that we can possibly get."
Crow said greater cooperation between the government and private sectors is one possible way to keep the U.S. economically strong.
He cited Singapore as an example of a country that has a highly competitive private sector working with a focused public sector to promote education and economic success rather than competing against each other.
"The best way to predict the future is to invent it," he said. "You need to put every ounce of energy that you have behind the outcome that you want."
Lee McPheters, associate dean of MBA programs at ASU, said four unstoppable trends are affecting the East Valley economy: Globalization and the offshoring of jobs, the aging of the population, population growth and the development of new ideas.
Although the shifting of jobs overseas is temporarily disruptive, in the long run more jobs are created in the U.S. by globalization than are lost, he said. "It tends to be good for the economy in the long run," he said.
Also he noted that even though the population of the U.S. as a whole is aging, Arizona is attracting younger newcomers. Contrary to its image as a retirement haven, Arizona has a relatively high rate of young to old people, he said.
As for rapid population growth, the state is likely to be among the national leaders for at least 50 more years, he said.
Economic development consultant Ioanna Morfessis predicted that new forms of work will emerge, such as selfemployed contract workers who make their services available through the Internet.
"E-lancers will be a staple of the work force in the future," she said.
She also emphasize the importance of an educated work force, saying "ASU and the polytechnic campus will be the crux of East Valley’s ability to compete in the world economy."
Three East Valley community leaders were given awards at the forum. Pinal County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sandie Smith, DDistrict 2 Gold Canyon, won the Dwight Patterson Lifetime Achievement Award; Christine Scarpati, chief executive of the Child Crisis Center, East Valley, was presented the Kerry Dunne Sustaining Leadership Award; and Queen Creek Mayor Wendy Feldman-Kerr was given the Excellence in Leadership Award.