Now it's the knowledge economy, stupid
January 2, 2006
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Here's a New Year's
party riddle. If education is so valuable, why aren't college
towns filled with millionaires?
go to strange New Year's celebrations, but that's a question I
asked. No wonder I get invited to so few galas.
economy New Year's questions: If China produces 600,000 engineering
graduates annually (a disputed but oft-quoted number) and the
U.S. graduates fewer than 100,000, should we be concerned? You
organizations led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are worried.
They formed the Education for Innovation Initiative aiming to
double the number of domestic science, technology, engineering
and mathematics grads by 2015. If current trends continue, by
2010, 90 percent of all scientists and engineers will reside in
Asia. Scientists and engineers drive knowledge-economy innovation,
and innovation creates wealth.
thinks we need another national initiative, like the effort following
the Russian Sputnik launch in the 1950s, to train knowledge-economy
for the future
producing and retaining enough knowledge-economy talent to fuel
growth? What should be done to grow Chicago's knowledge economy?
Why aren't there more millionaires in those college towns?
towns aren't the most prosperous because their knowledge isn't
deployed in the most economically productive occupations,"
explained Robert Weissbourd, president of Chicago based RW Ventures.
is not suggesting you drop out of school. Far from it. "Get
as much education as you can," says Weissbourd, who consults
to think tanks, local governments and businesses.
in an economy where we change jobs numerous times," Weissbourd
said. "Learning to learn is the skill that is critical. Be
able to read, write and learn new things."
is bullish on Chicago's prospects because our local economy is
diverse and not dependent on any one industry -- plus we have
a strong knowledge economy, the sixth-largest in the nation according
to McKinsey & Co. We're not the kingpin of IT or biotech just
yet, but many of our local industries are technology intensive.
is one of only three truly global cities in the country,"
Weissbourd said. "We have an enormous concentration of financial
services, legal services and management functions. We're a headquarters
city. Those are knowledge functions. They involve the knowledge
Chicago must attract and retain talent.
such as Carnegie Mellon University Professor Richard Florida suggest
urban leaders invest in cultural amenities to attract the emerging
creative class. Weissbourd disagrees: "Some cities think
if they're fun places, they'll attract educated people. Research
shows that flat out is not right."
at a disadvantage over sunnier climes? Weissbourd doesn't think
so. "Educated people go places that are rainy, snowy and
cold," he said. They may not love the climate but people
go where there are concentrations of high-paying, knowledge-intensive
jobs. Chicago can't control the weather but we can work to keep
the knowledge occupations here.
praises the move that brought Boeing here in 2001 but cautions
not to focus solely on risky industry sectors such as aerospace
or even biotech.
thinking across industry and going after the segment of better
paying knowledge-based functions like the global headquarters
invest in nanotech, biotech, software development and mobile wireless
thinks those definitions are too broad. Ten years from now, biotech
could include a dozen industries and hundreds of occupations.
has a huge amount going for it," Weissbourd said. "We
need to focus on gaining those high-paid knowledge economy jobs
across all our diverse economic sectors."
Information Technology Association added to its board.
include: Navteq technology vice president Aaron Crane;
University of Chicago entrepreneurship director Linda
Darragh; SmithBucklin CIO John Fischer;
Alterian CFO Joe Fuller; Tellabs CIO Jean
Holley; Oracle vice president Lou Meshulam;
SimDesk director Bruce Montgomery; SSI Embedded
Systems CEO Michelle Morda; City of Chicago CIO
Chris O'Brien; Authentify CEO Peter Tapling,
and Illinois CIO Exchange CEO Bill Waas.
Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant.