“Keeping America Competitive: the View from ‘Commerce Street’” – Fred Smith, FedEx Corporation

I have always admired Fred Smith of FedEx.

Yesterday, he addressed a town hall meeting in Los Angeles, on the economy’s impact on industry, and offered three very sensible suggestions for governments to consider.

I an excerpting from the speech “Keeping America Competitive: the View from ‘Commerce Street’” by Frederick W. Smith, Chairman, President and CEO, FedEx Corporation.

The fact is that in this economic downturn, most people, especially politicians and the press, talk about Wall Street and Main Street, but few talk about what I call “Commerce Street,” the industrial economy in between…and the one with just as many victims as the other two sectors.

Let me shine a spotlight on how important such industries are to our American economy.

The industrial sector includes businesses that are usually rich in assets—big service companies, health care providers, warehousers, manufacturers, agriculture, mining and energy producers. This sector is a major driver of our economy. Industry may not be as sexy as finance, housing or retail, but it’s a critical component of GDP. Industrial job creation and loss parallel exactly the rise and fall of corporate spending in the U.S.

Even so, as more industrial businesses have slowed down or closed, the United States has begun to lose its edge in the global marketplace. How can we fund technological innovation if companies are strapped for cash? How can we fund alternative fuel research if chemists have lost their jobs?

So today I’d like to try to answer the question, “How can we make American companies more competitive in the global marketplace and increase their ability to offer American workers good jobs?

My answer? Three things:

  • Accelerate the expensing of capital investment,
  • Reduce our dependence on imported petroleum, and
  • Champion free trade.

In summary, I believe that we can face down today’s challenges with that famous American ingenuity, determination and optimism that have kept us a world leader for so long.

The three topics I’ve discussed today require little in the way of direct government money. By stimulating the industrial sector to invest more in equipment and software; by reducing our dependence on imported oil; and by helping world markets remain open, we can begin to move the U.S. economy in the right direction. The only thing we really need is the political will to make these things happen. If we do, then we can transform “Commerce Street” into a more powerful force in California’s economy, and we can help straighten the crown America has worn for so long as the world’s economic leader.

I strongly recommend your reading the complete presentation, it will be time well worth spent.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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