Morris Beschloss 2014-02-11 04:59:20
All systems go > While the 2014 economic year is in its infancy, there are a number of positive factors indicating the current year will be the strongest comeback year since the end of the recent Great Recession and have the makeup of strong diversified economic elements. Leading the comeback parade will be a mix of energy developments, exports, residential and commercial construction, but also technological unveiling such as fracking expansion that could substantially enhance productivity. This will provide economic growth, the likes of which has not been seen since the halcyon years of the decade that stretched from the mid-1990s, ending abruptly with the mid-2008 financial fallout. It is ironic that a major factor in what could allow the U. S. economy to flourish beyond previous expectations is the administration’s Obamacare stumble, leading to the willingness of both major parties to come together with a joint budget approach to avoid another government shutdown. Why 2014 has the makings of a banner U.S. economic year. Also casting an ever-darkening shadow over a disputatious Congress are the midterm November Congressional elections. This could increasingly put the White House on the defensive, as a swing to the GOP could be in the making during the forthcoming Senate majority showdown. Building on the first time in the past three years a solid budget is ready before the previous New Year’s budget battles, the economic takeoff will be led by the following key factors: While structural unemployment will make a post recession 5% unemployment factor exceedingly difficult during this particular go-round, household income is expected to be strong enough to maintain consumer demand at a high enough level to generate an improvement of the all-important retail sector. This provides the main thrust behind a solidly improving gross domestic product for the year. Residential construction will generate a massive 26% increase, primarily supported by a generational switch to renting and leasing. This trend moves away from a multi-decade “love affair” with homeowning, Which was populist-dictated by federal government dictums for thousands, if not millions, whose incomes could not afford it in this flurry of home-buying. American exports will continue to set repeated records as the country’s cost-effectiveness, quality, diversity of products and services, and agricultural bumper crops make the U.S. the world’s leader in outgoing wheat, corn, soybeans, etc. All aspects of energy, including long-awaited oil, gas and electric pipeline systems, will be due for a strong shot in the arm. This will include multiple liquid natural gas export terminals. Also supporting this expansion will be a great variety of derivatives emanating from oil, natural gas and, yes, coal. Renewables, especially solar will enjoy a growing boom. But even when including ethanol, geothermal and wind, these only will be supplemental to fossil fuels. In fact, U.S. refinery derivatives will be setting records in 2014 for internal, as well as accelerated export growth. With these factors as a solid base, America may anticipate a better-than-even chance 2014 will provide a great step forward for an outstanding economic year. The biggest surprise of all in 2014 may be an ASEAN Free Trade Pact and based on statistics, a stronger-than-expected Chinese comeback emanating from the world’s fastest-growing global runner up to the United States in gross domestic product. Women’s business roles increase A front-page cover story in “Bloomberg Business Week” devoted a major segment of its mid-December issue to the promotion of Mary Barra from chief production officer to chief executive officer of General Motors, which survived a near-fatal financial collapse and has now reverted back to public ownership, a good component of which is in the hands of the United Autoworkers Union. GM’s return to near pre-Great Recession levels in an amazingly short time also is breaking new ground in installing a relatively young (51-year-old) product director as its CEO. Although this breakthrough as top officer in America’s leading industrial manufacturing sector is a story in itself, the transit to No. 1 by women has been accelerating lately, a trend that is sure to maintain its forward momentum. This increasing entry of women into corporate CEO jobs follows the trend of increasing women’s roles in all aspects of business/ industry and government. This seems to go hand-in-hand with the leading percentage and number of women in graduate and post-graduate positions, especially in the United States. This already has been attested to by such top-flight distaff Fortune 500 industry leaders as Meg Whitman (Hewlett Packard) and Marissa Mayer (Yahoo), as well as a broadened step-up of future leadership entrants in the upcoming years. Such a utilization of the talent available in the world’s third-most populous nation (The U.S. - currently at 320 million) indicates the cultural maturity of the world’s current great democracies, such as Germany, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom. These are not held back by religio-cultural handicaps which exist in most nations of the Mideast, South America, Africa and even Southeast Asia. This augurs well for the world’s developed nations where the walls of gender preference have given way to talent, capacity and leadership assumption. This has swung the pendulum of global economic progress back toward the world’s original implementers of the late 17th and 18th century Industrial Revolution that seemed to have given ground to the surging, exporting BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India and China). This utilization of dynamic talent (women make up 51% of the world’s population) is starting to make itself felt in the areas of national and regional governance. This acceptance of female world leaders/corporate heads, still found primarily in Western cultures, has tipped the productivity and technological evolution pendulum toward those enlightened nations. This has resulted in putting women in all aspects of professional endeavor into a channel to project their skills and general capabilities. It also means the widening gap of advantage that seemed to be surging to the rapidly developing economic “catch-up” nations may be narrowing as the displacement of domestic production in a variety of end-use segments is slowing its outflow and increasing its return to the “motherland” of its onetime economic output. As is indicated by the strong comeback of production to the United States, in conjunction with its natural resource breakthrough, this could possibly strengthen the global economic percentage growth of the United States, Germany, Japan and Canada. It’s also narrowing the world’s economic leadership battle, which seemed to have been headed to the developing “second world” by default as predicted in the most recent economic forecasts. The business of America is business This little-known declarative statement by Calvin Coolidge, the unpretentious 30th U.S. president in the midst of the Roaring Twenties, has never made the nation’s history books, but rightfully focuses on the globally unmatched drive which has made America the unparalleled economic and technological world leader that will retain its growth supremacy into the undetermined future. The main reason for the veracity of this belief is “entrepreneurialism.” The French word loosely translated would indicate “inventive and innovative” capability. The proof of America’s superior growth during its periods of presidential leadership that understood America’s uniqueness in commitment to entrepreneurialism is a matter of record. It further dramatizes its backsliding at a time when “incompetence and inexperience” were voted into the White House by an electoral majority that did not comprehend that professional and economic leadership experience was increasingly imperative. It’s not accidental the entrepreneurial drive propelling the United States at the peak of global progress is primarily the result of the hundreds of thousands of independent businesses, headed up by owners and/or general managers who also are the decision makers and nurturers of progress instigating continuous growth. That also is why recognition of entrepreneurial leadership has made the United States of America the leader in such leaps forward as hydraulic fracturing of oil and natural gas, medical breakthroughs, revolutionary communication techniques and the arenas of entertainment and transportation. These have invariably emanated from the independent leadership of professional, productive and marketing businesses that have set the future road map for the rest of the world. Veteran industry analyst and writer Morris R. Beschloss is the industrial PVF columnist for Supply House Times and the American Supply Association’s industry analyst. Beschloss, whose career in the industrial pipe, valve and fittings sector spans more than five decades, was the recipient of the 2012 ASA Fred V. Keenan Lifetime Achievement Award.
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