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VOL. 126 | NO. 79 | Friday, April 22, 2011

Seminar to Tackle Globalization’s Impact

By Andy Meek

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“The world is flat” is more than just a catchphrase that illustrates the increasing connectivity of the globe’s consumers, markets and economies.

The concept – brought to the forefront by Thomas Friedman’s 2005 book of the same name – is a foundational element of what Memphis’ economic development game plan needs to be if it’s going to remain competitive in the months and years ahead.

That’s what a panel of experts will share with an audience of business professionals when The Daily News hosts a seminar next week titled “Globalization & The Local Economy,” the second of six in the paper’s inaugural 2011 Seminar Series.

The April 28 seminar – sponsored by Butler, Snow, O’Mara, Stevens and Cannada PLLC – will be held at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, 1934 Poplar Ave.

Panelists include keynote speaker David Waddell, president and CEO of Waddell & Associates; Olin Atkins, partner with Atkins Capital Management, LLC; Dexter Muller, senior vice president of community development with the Greater Memphis Chamber; and Dr. John Gnuschke, director of the Sparks Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Memphis.

“Everybody’s competing with everybody for everything,” Muller said. “The smart money is on building linkages and connections across the globe. We don’t think of ourselves as competing against other countries. We’re always thinking about Nashville or Atlanta or something like that.

“I remember when this first came home to me. I was working on a project with a company that’s here and expanded after a search, but they were looking at Oklahoma, Memphis and Belgium.”

Muller said last week offered a perfect encapsulation of those thoughts when Memphis hosted the Airport Cities World Conference & Exhibition. It was an industry conference that highlighted the connectivity made possible in cities like Memphis that build hubs of what’s often globe-spanning economic activity around their airports.

“I think, to a certain extent, there are those who feel like they’re not really participating in globalization at a local level,” Waddell said. “But I don’t think that’s true.

“With some of the large victories the chamber’s had recently, that just demonstrates the fact globalization does touch Memphis. And the father of globalization in my opinion, (FedEx founder) Fred Smith, happens to live in Memphis.”

There are other aspects of globalization that will be discussed. Atkins said his colleagues see the U.S. consumer, along with those in Europe and Japan, as facing stiff headwinds in the form of debt de-leveraging and other adverse demographics.

As a result, developing-world consumers become an increasingly important market.

“We have two major worries regarding the transition from the current developed world consumer to the emerging consumer,” Atkins said. ”First, we believe that the hand-off from developed market consumer to emerging market consumer will take longer than many bulls believe, simply because of the huge imbalance in current consumption between these two populations.

“Also, we worry that over the next couple of years if unemployment or underemployment stays stubbornly high in the U.S. the greatest risk to globalization is an increasingly restless electorate and a protectionist Congress. If we start to erect trade barriers and impose tariffs, our trading partners will follow.”

Subjects of future Daily News seminars will include health care reform (July 14), social media (Sept. 15), green business (Oct. 6), and the business of health care (Nov. 10).

Next week’s seminar will begin at 3:30 p.m. and will last about 90 minutes, with a cocktail reception to follow. The cost is $25. While seating is currently available, those interested are encouraged to register as soon as possible.

“Whether it is China’s real-estate bubble, the eurozone’s debt crisis or the U.S. unemployment rate, the global economy is increasingly complex and interconnected,” said James Overstreet, associate publisher and executive editor of The Daily News and The Memphis News. “By hosting a seminar featuring local financial management experts, economic development officials and economists, we look forward to discussing the economic challenges and opportunities facing local investors and businesses in 2011.”

To register, visit www.memphisdailynews.com/seminar. Inquiries can be directed to The Daily News’ marketing manager Donna Waggener, at 528-8122 or dwaggener@memphisdailynews.com.

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