This election has put a spotlight on rural voters. Exit polls have pointed to job loss and job erosion as being a driver behind their vote for change.
The issue is, can campaign promises of renegotiated trade deals and reduced regulation restore rural America's jobs and economy?
The government regulatory actions had good intentions. Air quality was a significant health issue for textile workers called “lint heads” because of the amount of particulate matter in their work place environment. These workers faced a shorten life plus a painful death from lung disease caused by long term particulate inhalation.
What the Federal policy failed to consider in its air quality regulation was the ability of the textile industry to relocate. I watched this happen while living in the South. It was amazing at how quickly America’s textile industry left rural America after the air quality regulations were implemented. The critical regulatory flaw was in not applying these regulations to both domestic and imported textile products.
There are countless other examples of how government policy and regulations have eroded America's manufacturing base.
But the question is, does righting 20th century wrongs in trade and regulation is the 21st century path to restoring the jobs and economy of rural America?
The Green Economic Revolution is a consumer revolution. The 20th century consumer sought "super-size-me" prices, convenience and brand affinity. 21st century consumers seek to align value with values. Businesses make money in the Green Economic Revolution by delighting customers with products that cost less, are validated as authentic and are transparent in their representations.
The new economy realities being created by the Information Age and the Green Economic Revolution are:
1. Information age cities are global job creators. America’s Information Age-centric cities like New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles now have population sizes and gross economic production that dwarfs most states. The Information Age has made cities the world’s economic engine. However this is not a battle between rural America and cities. Congestion in our largest Information Age cities is pushing jobs and opportunities out across America, including to rural communities that have the talent pool, clean electricity and interconnectivity to execute Information Age work.
2.Manufacturing robotics costs less. Least cost manufacturing is moving past a pursuit of least cost labor. Rural America is unlikely to win back most of the jobs lost to globalization because manufacturing is shifting to the superior economics of robotics. This is a global phenomenon. Chinese factory laborers are losing their jobs to robotics too. The days of winning manual labor manufacturing jobs with lower cost manual labor now faces the realty that robotics can do it cheaper, cleaner and better. The path for rural America's manufacturing rebirth is to offer robotic manufacturing sites that offer Information Age skilled labor, access to global interconnectivity and clean, affordable and reliable electricity.
3. Internet shopping wins. Sadly, Walmart jobs are too often the best jobs in rural America. This is now at risk. Big box stores are losing market share to lower cost, higher convenience internet shopping. Big box stores will not go away but they will continue to lose market share. That means less opportunity for rural Americans seeking jobs in Big Box stores.
Bill Roth is a cleantech business pioneer having led teams that developed the first hydrogen fueled Prius and a utility scale, non-thermal solar power plant. Using his CEO and senior officer experiences, Roth has coached hundreds of CEOs and business owners on how to develop and implement projects that win customers and cut costs while reducing environmental impacts. As a professional economist, Roth has written numerous books including his best selling The Secret Green Sauce (available on Amazon) that profiles proven sustainable best practices in pricing, marketing and operations. His most recent book, The Boomer Generation Diet (available on Amazon) profiles his humorous personal story on how he used sustainable best practices to lose 40 pounds and still enjoy Happy Hour!