"Think back 25 years ago," Eskew explained. "A lot of people were afraid the U.S. was going to lose all of its good jobs and economic clout to Japan. Even greater numbers were worried about the encroachment of technology. That mirrors the fears we see today ... only instead of Japan, it's India and China. Instead of technology, it's the global economy."
And how did the U.S. ultimately respond to the challenge of Japan?
"In the process of innovating, we replaced 44 million antiquated jobs with 73 million new jobs," Eskew observed. "The bulk of those jobs required knowledge of technology. The net effect was 29 million new higher-paying, higher-skilled jobs between 1980 and 1998. We can do the same today if we focus on retraining workers whose jobs have been lost in a global economy."
Eskew, a native of Vincennes, Ind., applauded Indiana's success as one of the nation's top 15 exporting states. But he challenged the audience of 500 business, government and academic leaders to raise public understanding of the realities of global trade and also to encourage a new generation of engineers and actively attract creative workers.
"The Soviet satellite, Sputnik, inspired a Baby Boom generation of engineers," said Eskew, a Purdue University engineering graduate. Today, the challenge is just as great to train the innovators of tomorrow, particularly since the U.S. has slipped to 17th in the world in the proportion of college-age population earning science and engineering degrees.
Eskew urged business leaders to engage with students of all ages in classrooms around the state to help students understand the imperatives of competing in a global economy. And he said the Indiana Humanities Council could play an increasingly important role in the state's future by promoting an environment that embraces diverse cultures through the arts and a variety of communications.
He cited Dublin, Ireland, as a city that has transformed itself into a technology center by developing a growing base of universities and a thriving, diverse artistic and cultural scene.
"The ability to transform to meet the creative, high-level work ahead will be the best opportunity for 21st century Indiana," concluded Eskew.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Mike Eskew will deliver his speech at 7 p.m. today. For the full text of Eskew's speech and to learn how UPS is helping grow jobs and supporting export activity in the U.S. and around the globe, log on to www.pressroom.ups.com.
Norman Black, 404-828-7593