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Major changes ahead for business world

Sunday, October 5, 2008

SIKESTON -- Major changes are coming in the future for Southeast Missouri, the state, nation and world.

And Ron Crouch, director of the Kentucky Data Center located at the University of Louisville, discussed the future and some of those impending changes Friday afternoon with economic and business leaders from around the area at "Retooling for Economic Change." The one-day seminar, held at Southeast Missouri State University-Sikeston was held to provide essential tools for regional and local leaders to understand economic change.

In introducing Crouch, Missy Marshall, executive director of the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce, which was one of the event sponsors, said he is self-proclaimed in the profession of "knowledge dissemination."

A national speaker, Crouch analyzes the data of a region to develop information in ways that enhance understanding and utilization. Over the past three years, Crouch has spoken to leadership groups in 27 states.

"So take advantage of this opportunity," said Marshall. "Take notes and ask questions."

Approximately 60 people attended the seminar, which was available to those in 24 counties in Southeast Missouri.

Throughout his 90-minute presentation, Crouch presented future changes occurring not only in the region, but also in Missouri, the nation and world, saying you can't understand one without understanding all the others

"The difference between perception and reality is that reality actually changes," he said. "And if you make a decision on what you believe and what you believe is wrong, then what kind of decisions are you making?"

Right now, the world as a whole is going through a "major transition it has never seen before," said Crouch. For instance, the world's population is expected to grow to 9.4 billion by 2050, from 6.07 billion in 2000.

"But the growth in the world over the next 42 years will mainly be due to one thing only -- longevity and people growing older."

That not only means that people will be seeing one another for more years, but also likely be working more years than their predecessors, especially due to the current state of the stock market, he said.

Unfortunately, there is a difference in attitudes between those born before and after 1980, said Crouch. "The boomers live to work," he said. "But the younger generation works to live."

When it comes to the younger generation, women are more educated, with 60 percent of college students nationwide who are females, said Crouch.

And with people living to be older, people need to think about things such as housing conducive to those ages, as well as business design.

"We are going to have to redesign society and how we live," said Crouch.

Any fertility less than 2.1 is less than the replacement rate. Missouri's is 1.99, said Crouch.

"That says a lot about the future work force," said Crouch. "We'll have a growing population but not work force so everyone has to be educated, skilled and productive, and we'll probably have to work longer."

Following his presentation, Marshall agreed with Crouch that a lot of data analysis has to do with how you look at information -- for instance, you have to follow one group through time, looking at 34- to 45-year-olds at one point and 10 years later looking at them as 44- to 55-year-olds for increases and decreases.

"You can't look at something that was never there," she said.

She suggested that some of the information presented Friday will help businesses in making their next steps or planning for future construction and designs.

In summing up, Crouch said the area does have a lot of challenges, but the good news is that it is a lot less than other states.

For more information on the information Crouch presented, go to his Web site, http://ksdc.louisville.edu. Videos and handouts are available by clicking on "presentations."