DAYTON — Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst and Sidney-Shelby County Economic Partnership Executive Director Mike Dodds joined business and elected leaders from across the region for a panel discussion on global competitiveness and manufacturing innovation Friday morning. The meeting was held at the University of Dayton River Campus.
The panelists included Dr. Eric Spina, president of the University of Dayton; Dr. Anne Eiting Klamar, chair of the Board of Midmark Corp.; Ed Purvis, chief operating officer of Emerson; C. Douglas Ebersole, executive director of the Air Force Research Laboratory; and J.P. Nauseef, chair, president and CEO of Krush Technologies. The panel was moderated by Jeff Immelt, chair and CEO of General Electric, and Sen. Rob Portman.
University of Dayton President Eric Spina welcomed the attendees to the River Campus. The attendees included former Ohio Governor Robert Taft and a number of Emerson Climate executives. The River Campus is the former world headquarters of NCR, who sold the property to the university when they moved to Atlanta in 2010.
The panelists spoke about the Dayton region’s role as an economic engine. Several of the panelists, including Purvis, spoke favorably about the Dayton area.
“When you tell people they have to come to the Dayton region, the news often brings them to tears,” he said. “Later in their careers when you tell them they have to leave, they cry again. That certainly was the case with my wife. When I told her 33 years ago that we would be moving to Troy, she cried. A year ago when I told her we would be going to St. Louis, she cried again – she didn’t want to leave.”
Nearly every panelist agreed with that sentiment. Nauseef was among them.
“My mother came to this country as an immigrant,” he told the audience. “Dayton has become my home, and I feel very fortunate to have the opportunities I have had to build a future here.”
Three themes emerged from the discussion. Those themes included the need to continue to build a skilled workforce, the need for government to work with private industry and the role of globalization.
“Globalization is not a dirty word,” Immelt said. “People in this country have to understand that we have about 5 percent of the world’s population, and are responsible for 25 percent of the world’s GDP. If we insulate ourselves, the GDP percentage will most assuredly decrease.”
There was universal agreement among the panelists that workforce development was essential. There was also universal agreement that continued innovation was hampered by government regulation.
Speaking directly to Portman, Purvis was blunt.
“We are heavily regulated by eight departments. They don’t talk to each other, so one department might be telling us we have to do something that is contradicted by the rules created by another department. We want to comply, but it is increasingly difficult,” Purvis said.
The panelists, including Midmark’s Klamar and Purvis, also spoke about the need to attract and keep talent.
“One of the reasons we made the move to the University of Dayton campus was to be closer to a reservoir of talent. We’ve had 50 coop students over the past several years, and we’ve hired ten of them,” she said.
The important role of the Air Force Research Laboratory was also emphasized. “GPS came out of military research,” Portman said. “So did duct tape. Where would we be without duct tape?”
Ebersole spoke briefly about the need to continue the very expensive research undertaken at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. “We certainly don’t want combat, but if it happens, we want to continue to send our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles into an unfair fight – we want that overwhelming technological advantage each and every time.”
Immelt, who has been CEO of General Electric since 2000, has been named one of the World’s Best CEOs three times by Barron’s. Under his leadership, General Electric has been named “America’s Most Admired Company” in a poll conducted by Fortune magazine, and one of the “World’s Most Respected Companies” in polls conducted by Barron’s and the Financial Times. General Electric sponsored the event.