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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

April 28, 2010 at 10:00 AM

Emmert departure leaves university economic engine idling

The resignation of University of Washington President Mark Emmert resonates on the side of the street I work. Universities emerged over recent decades as major economic engines of metropolitan areas, notably in Silicon Valley, Boston and Research Triangle. And in Seattle. Now a respected president of the UW who by all accounts, and in my interactions with him, absolutely “got it” about universities and the economy is gone. To Indiana. To the NCAA.

No offense to sports or the Neon Cornfield, but what message does this send? The UW has been hit with serious budget cuts. Worse, the Legislature doesn’t seem to get the connection between maintaining and enhancing a world-class research university and a world-class economy. Such an institution attracts top talent, faculty and students. In the right situation, such as Seattle in the past, much of that talent stays. Research is commercialized into the local economy attracting capital. Professors, researchers and students move out to start truly innovative companies.

America may not be on board with the Great Reset after the Great Recession, idly awaiting another bubble, more financial “innovations” and facing a middle class sliding in ill-focused rage into poorly paying jobs. But our most potent competitors are embracing it. China isn’t just working to corner renewable energy and build high-speed rail, it’s also establishing and expanding hundreds of universities.

Is Emmert quietly signaling that in America, sports is the last safe place to thrive — unless you work for Goldman Sacks…oops, Sachs…or some other casino on Wall Street?

The Back Story: “There you go again,” as Ronald Reagan said. Boeing is suspending further delivery of 787 sections to Everett because parts are late in its far-flung network, including the new plant in Charleston.

Fortunately the snafu won’t delay initial deliveries of the much-delayed Dreamliners. But it does raise many old questions about management decisions. Boeing (or McBoeing) established an ambitious global supply chain to build the 787 within its budget. It might be considered an audacious pushing of the envelope, but it also carries risks. When is the supply chain too atomized, too far beyond Boeing’s control? In this case, it’s clearly too unwieldy to handle design changes and meet the just-in-time promises of such a system.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Drive on, Seattle

The planet’s greenest cities

Are passing you by

Comments | More in Aerospace/Boeing


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