Education: Can We Learn from Finland?

Film maker and entrepreneur Bob Compton recently spoke to our friend Gerry Dick at Inside INdiana Business about his new film, "The Finland Phenomenon." The film analyzes the differences in our cultures, and how academic achievement is rewarded in the country. It also examines how Finland seems to take a more practical approach to education, where many students don’t embark on "a forced march" to attend college, but become well-educated to fill valuable roles in the country’s workforce.

Compton’s previous film on education, "2 Million Minutes," earned much notoriety — and criticism — for his comparisons of Indiana’s educational system to that of India and China.

The Coming Food Crisis — and What It Has to do with Canada

In writing a bit about food production for BizVoice, it seems there is one daunting, unavoidable fact: With China and other Asian countries expanding their palettes to include dairy products, the pressure will be on Western food producers to raise the output in the coming years. While my talks with Hoosier producers indicated their eagerness to step up, Dan Gardner, a columnist for the Ottawa Citizen, argues Canada will have a much tougher time doing so:

With rare exceptions, discussions of food policy in Canada are limited to the joys of eating organic and how hard-pressed farmers need more help from the government.

What you never hear is this: As a result of rising population and wealth, global demand for food is soaring and the world faces a food crisis unlike anything seen since the 1970s if food production does not grow rapidly. Canada is among the very few nations with the capacity to dramatically boost production. But we’re not. In fact, Canadian agriculture is stagnant. And politicians will not even discuss how we can change that.

“There is a disconnect,” says Larry Martin, an agricultural economist at the George Morris Centre, an independent think tank devoted to agricultural policy.

“Canada has the third-largest endowment of arable land per capita in the world, after Australia and Kazakhstan,” notes Martin. “We have, depending on the set of numbers you look at, nine per cent of the renewable fresh water supply in the world.” Put those two facts together, add one of the greatest commodity booms in history, and money should be pouring into Canadian food production.

But Martin found something startling when he compared the ratio of investment in agriculture with the depreciation of existing assets. Over the last decade, as China boomed and food prices soared, there was no rush to invest. “The ratio in Canada in eight of the last 10 years is less than one. So there’s less new investment coming into the food industry than there is depreciation.”

In the United States, by comparison, the worst year in the last 10 saw 40 per cent more investment than depreciation.

“It’s just astonishing when you see these numbers. We think of ourselves as a great wheat exporter but our share of the wheat market is declining. During the ’90s and early 2000s, we had between 20 and 25 per cent market share and it’s gone down steadily to 15 in the last few years.”

The causes of the stagnation are many, Martin says. A big one is a regulatory system that stifles innovation. Martin recalls testifying at a parliamentary committee alongside a wheat breeder from the University of Saskatchewan. “He went through a whole list of wheat varieties that he came up with that are much higher yielding than the wheat varieties in Canada. He couldn’t get them registered in Canada but they got registered in Montana and we now have to compete with them.”

Then there’s “supply management,” the 1970s-era policy which effectively turned dairy and poultry production into an industry-controlled cartel protected by import tariffs. It’s good for existing dairy and poultry producers because it keeps prices high and stable. And it has made the lucky people with production quotas a lot of money: the quota for a single dairy cow can go for $30,000 and estimates of the total value of production quotas range between $30 billion and $50 billion.

U.S. Not Tops in Global Technology Use

This info is a bit surprising, but according to a recent study, the U.S. trails countries like Sweden, Singapore and Switzerland in technology use. In order to make up the difference, I plan to spend the next two weekends watching hours upon hours of YouTube videos of house pets whose owners insist they are talking (they think they’re people). USA! USA! PR Daily offers:

You wouldn’t know it judging by the sea of smartphones and mobile tablets on public transportation every morning, but the United States is lagging (relatively speaking) in its use of computing and communications technology.

According to an annual study by the World Economic Forum, the U.S. finished fifth among 138 counties in technology use.

Sweden, Singapore, Finland, and Switzerland topped the U.S. in tech use. Canada ranked No. 8, and Great Britain was No. 15.

The rankings are based on 71 economic and social indicators.

A surprise: China and India each fell five places from 2009, ranking 36th and 48th, respectively.

Former U.S. Chamber Official to Lead Purdue Global Business Effort

Purdue is here to help Indiana communities that are interested in economic development with China. On Friday, more than 60 Indiana government and economic officials, including 13 mayors, as well as business and education representatives, attended the Indiana Mayoral Roundtable on China to learn more about Purdue resources.

We also announced Purdue’s new Global Business Engagement Initiative that charts a course for Purdue to be the state’s one-stop shop for learning about and conducting business with China, and other countries that we are identifying. Purdue expertise can help prepare interested Indiana firms and communities with big picture guidance, such as on market assessments, to the smaller details, like how to distribute and receive business cards. Mark Van Fleet, a former senior official from the United States Chamber of Commerce, will lead the initiative.

We had a waiting list for Friday’s roundtable, and unfortunately an early morning winter storm kept some people from attending, but the enthusiasm for this event is a great sign that officials throughout Indiana are interested in what Purdue can offer. The roundtable also prompted some thoughtful dialogue, and participants had the chance to direct their questions to Chinese investors from Wanxiang America and Nanshan America, as well as Guoqiang Yang, consul general of the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Chicago.

If you have specific questions about working with Purdue, please contact me,
Michael Brzezinski, interim dean of International Programs, at  [email protected].

More information is available: http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/general/2011/110225BrzezinskiChina.html

Purdue is here for you, and we look forward to helping your business and our state become a more active player in today’s global economy.

——-

Michael Brzezinski is interim dean of international programs at Purdue University.

PHOTO CAPTION: Muncie Mayor Sharon McShurley speaks Friday (Feb. 25) during the Indiana Mayoral Roundtable on China at Purdue. Participating in the panel discussion, from left, were Monticello Mayor Jason A. Thompson, Larry Ingraham of the Sagamore Institute and Logansport Mayor Michael Fincher. During the event, Purdue announced it is launching the Global Business Engagement Initiative, which will leverage the university’s various Chinese and business resources to promote Indiana’s economic development on a global scale by generating trade and investment opportunities for Indiana firms and communities while simultaneously advancing Purdue’s learning and discovery missions. (Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock) 
 

Business Potpourri: Did You Know …?

A weekend-plus of reading left me with a few business-related nuggets to share:

  • According to one respected analysis, 38 state economies are growing. Seven (Wyoming, New Mexico, Minnesota, Illinois, Maryland, West Virginia and Rhode Island) are expected to turn around soon; two (Maine and Mississippi) should reach that point early next year; and three (Nevada, Michigan and Georgia) are still in the waiting game.
  • Twenty years ago, employee performance pay (bonuses, incentives, stock options, etc.) accounted for less than 4% of total payrollls; today, that number is at 12% and growing.
  • Cell phone applications are all the rage, with a new one intended to help avoid rage on the road. It will assist with finding the nearest E85, biodiesel, hydrogen or other fuel station, along with where you can charge up your electric vehicle.
  • Within 20 years or so, four countries (China, India, South Africa and Brazil) will account for 40% of the world’s water use.
  • California is not expected to gain any additional seats in the House of Representatives — marking the first time that will have happened since the state joined the union in 1850.
  • A simple retail sales greeting chance may make a big difference. Instead of “Can I help you?” and getting, “No, thanks, I’m just looking,” as a response, try  “Hello. What brings you into the store today?”
  • Pointing out problems within an organization is OK unless it develops into a culture of complaints. One way to keep the whining under control is to require that all complaints be accompanied by at least one proposed solution. This will force people to take a closer look at the problem, and often they’ll realize it’s not that big of an issue after all. Or they may have a legitimate complaint and now they are focused on solutions instead of just problems.
  • The once-required white page phone directories are becoming a thing of the past. In three states (Florida, Oklahoma and Ohio) where distribution is by request only, just 2% of phone users ask for a copy. Savings in paper and energy costs could be substantial.

Image is Everything in a Greener World

So who’s the greenest of them all? If perception is reality, then AdvertisingAge has the answer. This report illustrates who’s done the best job of being — check that — appearing to be the greenest companies around.

Burt’s Bees and Whole Foods lead the 2010 ImagePower Green Brands Survey’s list of top 10 U.S. brands perceived to be the greenest, with Aveeno and Microsoft joining the list this year. The fifth annual study also found that in the U.S., people are more concerned about the economy than the environment, while in developing countries, such as Brazil and India, the environment takes precedence.

Making the top 10 brands list in the U.S. after Burt’s Bees and Whole Foods were, in order, Tom’s of Maine, Trader Joe’s, Google, Aveeno, S.C. Johnson, Publix, Microsoft and Ikea.

The survey, released this week, was done by WPP companies Cohn & Wolfe, Landor Associates and Penn Schoen Berland in partnership with Esty Environmental Partners, a corporate environmental strategy consultant. They did online interviews from Feb. 27 to March 24 with 9,022 people in the U.S., Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, U.K. and, for the first time, Australia.

The survey found that more than 60% of consumers around the world said they want to buy from environmentally responsible companies. In the U.S., though, 35% of those surveyed said they plan to spend more on green products, down 4% from 2009. That reflects the U.S.’ focus on economic worries. "Almost 80% of the [U.S.] consumers said they were more concerned about the economy that the environment. That’s the highest of any other country," says Russ Meyer, chief strategy officer for Landor, San Francisco.

In developing countries, however, the split goes the other way. Of those surveyed in Brazil, for example, 72% were concerned about the environment while 25% cited the economy. "India’s got a split like that, too—59% and 32%," Meyer says. "It’s interesting to see. There’s a bit of a Western bias that the West is further advanced in thinking about sustainability. India, China—those economies are already on their way to mending, and not so in Europe and the Americas."

Former Michigan Governor a Fan of Indiana Manufacturing

John Engler, a former governor of Michigan, spent much of his June 3 Economic Club of Indiana presentation doling out praise – for Indiana rather than his home state – when it comes to “getting it right” on manufacturing. Engler, current president of the National Association of Manufacturers, feels that Gov. Daniels and others in Indiana government have helped create an environment in which manufacturing can thrive. 

“As I go around the country and look at (manufacturing) data, Indiana stands out. Indiana is intelligent in manufacturing,” Engler said.

Engler noted business development tax incentives and the commitment to developing a skilled workforce as two areas in which Indiana is leading the way.  
  
Global competition

“In 1982, unemployment was 17%, but we could recover then without competition from a unified Europe or growing China. We have to be more strategic,” Engler explains.

Engler reminded the audience that the U.S. is still the largest manufacturing economy in the world but warns that any economic recovery will lag without a comprehensive manufacturing strategy in place at the federal level.

“It’s no longer governor vs. governor but governor vs. national leader,” Engler offered, adding, “The federal government has a role because states can’t compete when their incentives are dwarfed by the federal cost of taxes and regulations.”

Engler expressed particular disappointment with the recent expiration of a federal research and development tax credit – noting that the U.S. is now the only major economy in the world without a research and development incentive. He also mentioned the new 2.3% federal excise tax on medical device makers – a major part of Indiana’s economy – as an unnecessary burden.

“I don’t know of another country in the world that takes a leading sector (medical device manufacturing) and says, ‘let’s hit them with $20 billion in new taxes.’”

Education leading the way

Regulatory and tax policy changes may improve the U.S. business climate but education, according to Engler, is key to another of his stated goals – for the U.S. to become the best place in the world to conduct research and develop new products. He highlighted the industry’s need for engineers, computer programmers and other highly skilled professionals. Engler complimented Ivy Tech Community College in particular on its efforts to produce an advanced manufacturing workforce for the future.

Engler believes we can dramatically improve education on a national basis by building on currently successful initiatives – no matter how small or regional they may seem.

“We have solved every education problem in America. Every problem has been solved in some area. We are just terrible at replicating successful programs,” Engler explains. 

Engler’s luncheon presentation in Fort Wayne was the first of three stops on the Economic Club’s traveling summer series. The summer series continues with John Norquist, president & CEO of Congress for the New Urbanism, speaking in Evansville on July 15. Learn more.

Gora: Immersive Learning Spurs Innovation, Collaboration

In her second guest post, Ball State University President Jo Ann Gora offers her insights on the following topic:

  • Tell us something that not enough people know about your college or university that makes it such a special place.

While many Indiana citizens and others around the country know that Ball State is redefining education through immersive learning, they often are unaware of the breadth and intensity of those experiences.

Immersive learning is a more focused and intense form of experiential learning, as interdisciplinary teams of students work with a faculty mentor to provide real-world solutions for real-world problems faced by businesses, nonprofit organizations, and communities across Indiana and literally around the world. These projects hone our students’ skills in innovation and collaboration and help them to turn knowledge into judgment and judgment into action.

In the last two years, more than 5,300 Ball State students from 38 academic departments and all seven of our colleges completed 285 immersive learning projects in 69 Indiana counties. Those students have helped to open an arts industry incubator in Brown County, conducted the annual perch count on Lake Michigan, and developed the I-69 Culinary Trail for nine counties stretching from Indianapolis to the Michigan state line. They have written an 18-week nutrition and wellness curriculum with our partners at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital at St. Vincent and Marsh Supermarkets that is now being used by nearly 250 elementary schools in 60 counties. And they have written a crisis communication protocol for the Indiana Department of Homeland Security that affects every county in our state.

The reach of our immersive learning experiences is tremendous. Two of the students involved in the Culinary Trail project are from China, learning about Hoosier culture (and cuisine) as well as marketing and communication.  And a group of Ball State students, mostly from Indiana, spent 10 weeks in China, just outside Hong Kong, working with one of the leading toy manufacturers in the world on a Six Sigma initiative.  This spring, 40 students from our College of Architecture and Planning are visiting 56 cities in 23 countries and applying these new cultural and architectural perspectives to design projects in their own hometowns.

Bringing bright students together with talented faculty in immersive learning projects creates a unique educational experience, one that defines Ball State.

Tomorrow: Ivy Tech’s Tom Snyder

Decade a Good One for Global Growth

Not a lot of Americans are going to look back fondly on 2009 in an economic sense. But if you expand the viewpoint to a longer time frame and make it more global in nature, a George Mason University economics professor says it was a pretty good decade.

According to Tyler Cowen, national leaders around the world are embracing the commercialization of their economies. He writes:

Putting aside the United States, which ranks third, the four most populous countries are China, India, Indonesia and Brazil, accounting for more than 40 percent of the world’s people, and all four have made great strides.

  • Indonesia had solid economic growth during the entire decade, mostly in the 5 percent to 6 percent annual range.

  • Brazil also had a consistently good decade, with growth at times exceeding 5 percent a year.

  • Elsewhere in South America, Colombia and Peru have made enormous progress and Chile is on the verge of becoming a "developed" country.

  • To be sure, in Africa, there is still enormous misery; nonetheless, overall standards of living rose in a wide variety of countries there, with economic growth for the continent as a whole at more than 5 percent in most years.

In a given year, an extra percentage point of economic growth may not seem to matter much. But, over time, the difference between annual growth of 1 percent and 2 percent determines whether you can double your standard of living every 35 years or every 70 years. At 5 percent annual economic growth, living standards double about every 14 years.

Jet Setting Hoosiers

Pack your bags, we’re going to Vegas! Or maybe a Caribbean cruise is more your style.

Those are the top domestic and international destinations Hoosier travelers are booking for the rest of 2009, according to a Travel Leaders survey. The travel agency network surveyed some of its agents and owners throughout the state.

Other notable findings in the 2009 fall travel trends survey:

  • 65.6% of Indiana travelers are making U.S. travel reservations four weeks or less from the planned departure date
  • 93.7% of respondents said clients are cutting back on some aspect of travel (such as shortening length of trip)
  • Other top destinations domestically are: Orlando (ranked No. 2), Tampa/St. Petersburg (3) and Chicago and Dallas (tied at No. 4)
  • Hoosiers traveling internationally are heading to: Cancun, Mexico (No. 2); Mediterranean cruises (3); Montego Bay, Jamaica (4); and Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Riviera Maya, Mexico; and Shanghai, China (all tied for No. 5)
  • Still, 90.6% of Indiana Travel Leader respondents say overall travel bookings are lower than at this time in 2008 

Compare these findings to the national travel trends.