Healthcare for the Golden Goose

MetalMiner is pleased to introduce Mr. Sam Kinney, a personal friend and co-Founder of FreeMarkets the granddaddy of eSourcing platforms. Sam is currently incubating a couple of small technology businesses now.

We are presenting this guest column as a two part series.

This article broke my heart: (BusinessWeek, Can the Future be Built in America?)

Every day business executives do the math, and every day the math tells them to build their factories overseas. Entire new growth industries are launching with no manufacturing foothold in the USA, even while the underlying science behind these industries originated here.

I will admit to being a manufacturing fan. Few people appreciate the intellect embodied in a well-run manufacturing operation, with a relentless attention to detail and creative solutions to difficult problems required every single day. To me, it’s a noble pursuit, which is why I found the article distressing.

I also thought this put our current public policy debates into perspective. We’re debating health care for the uninsured, but ignoring the health of the Golden Goose, the productive economy that allows the debate to be about high tech health care and not food and shelter.

We live in an era where we compete economy-on-economy, not simply company-on-company or job-on-job. I had to chuckle at Seattle’s disappointment a couple years ago when the Seattle Sonics NBA team moved to Oklahoma. The debate raged on about how unfair, disloyal and wrong it was that the team would leave Seattle. Let’s all wake up and recognize that Oklahoma chose to compete and came up with the money to do so. It has nothing to do with loyalty and everything to do with Seattle’s failure to perceive its real-world reality, and thus failure to compete for the now-departed Sonics.

Because I worked in the cold-war defense industry briefly, I’m also reminded just how Ronald Reagan won the cold war. Using our superior technology and manufacturing base, the cold war was won in factories. For every $25 million fighter jet the Soviet Union built, we built a $1 million missile that could take out the jet. Every expensive move on their part was parried with a less expensive high tech move on our part. We could do this because our electronics technology and manufacturing prowess were superior. Eventually, the Soviet Union was forced to spend so much of GDP on defense that the system collapsed.

–Sam Kinney

Editor’s Note: Tomorrow we’ll post the second part of this column looking at how these trends will shape the future of US manufacturing.

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