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Friday, January 23, 2009

Get on Board the Knowledge Economy

The physical thing that is our economy is changing all the time. For example, for decades our state manufactured more automotive products than any other. As we all know, this has changed as jobs and production of vehicles and parts moved to other locations. While this change has held more negative consequences for Michigan than positives, there is a silver lining. The change has made us more aware that our economy requires constant attention. Our economy was not really driven by the Big Three, but by the attitude and ability of all our businesses, including local ones.
Our economy is the result of what people choose to make it, more than just "the way it is." Our knowledge and decisions, our skill and energy shape our economy. The knowledge needed for an effective business is constantly changing. The internet, world-wide web, computers, databases, communications technology have become standard business tools. Just as trucks and cars replaced horse and buggy last century, so too must our economic tools be updated. In your business, have you tried to use a web site, email, a Blackberry?

Making needed changes is a key to the "Knowledge Economy." It is not easy to change the way we have "done business," often for decades. A proven principle of business success is a "steady state:" when you get it right, keep it right. However, "getting it right" is changing more and more frequently. New equipment is coming out all the time. It is especially difficult to keep up with all the new information and knowledge that is being generated ever day. Yet, to successfully compete, we must not only keep up but also excel in our knowledge.

My mother, bless her soul, did not want to use a computer. She called it an"infernal invention." She meant it would be a change from her "old faithful" Royal typewritter, it was unknown, and it held a connotation of evil (think of Hal in 2001: A Space Odessy).

I never tried to force computers on my dear Mom, and I'm not asking for everyone in Rogers City to embrace computer technology or the knowledge economy. However, I am certain that for Rogers City to thrive economically, our business community and a core of our leaders and entreprenuers must do exactly that.

Wolverine Power Cooperative is an excellent example a company that uses the knowledge economy. Wolverine has been successful were others failed, and they may build a billion dollar power plant in our area soon. This will bring tremendous change and many economic opportunities. Wolverine knows the "knowledge economy" just as much as they know the electrical power business. They have sought out knowledge and used tools in every field that could apply to their business: government and legal affairs, environmental specialists, forrestry and fisheries experts, shipping experts, and engineers of every sort. They are looking out for ways to leverage there operations using the changing information. For example, they already are planning for carbon capture even before it becomes required.

For our citizens to fully benefit from Wolverine's project, we must emulate their excellent example and not merely hope they create jobs. As a community, we must start to use every tool available, not just the comfortable ones. This takes time and effort, but it is not really very difficult to get started. In fact, a key principle of the knowledge economy is "work smarter, not harder." The opportunities are boundless!

Let's get on board the "U.S. Ship of Knowledge" and sail to new prosperity and success. Call or email any of people listed below to learn more about how to use the knowledge economy:

+ MSU Extension: Cheryl Peters, cpeters@msu.edu, 989-734-2168

+ Alpena Community College: Carl Bourdelais, bourdelc@alpenacc.edu, 888-454-5400 x7383

+ Presque Isle County Economic Development: Bill Valentine, info@picdc.org, 989-734-8446

+ Presque Isle District Library: Reference Librarian, pidlref@i2k.net, 989-734-2477

+ Northeast Michigan Council of Governments (NEMCOG): Diane Rekowski or Richard
Deuell, http://www.nemcog.org/, 989-732-3551

+ Michigan Works: Randy Neumann, neumannr@miworks-nemc.gen.mi.us, 800-371-2533

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