By Gordon Mercer and Marcia Gaines Mercer
“Entrepreneurs and their small enterprises are responsible for almost all economic growth in the United States.” Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004
As humans we are naturally curious. People who make predictions for the future enhance television talk show ratings and sell magazines and newspapers. The future is a mystery and most of us love mysteries and we would like for our lives to go well!
Recently the editors of “Popular Mechanics” made predictions for the future from a technological perspective. Many sounded unbelievable, but were actually well on their way to being implemented. Cars were predicted to become more advanced in terms of sensing other cars around them, cement will be made that heals itself when cracked and advances are being made to make chemotherapy treatments more tolerable with the use of nanoparticles which target the specific cancer cells.
Journalist Lorenzo Fanceschi-Bicchierai recently listed predictions for the next 50 years from “Information is Beautiful.” Predictions included humans that live to 150, passenger airplanes flying without pilots, and driver free cars. Other predictions included China leading the world in scientific research, currency becoming digital and the genetic makeup of children being selected by parents. Oh, and an “immortal’ mouse” will be developed by 2015. In their defense, this was ranked as among the least likely to occur.
We wondered what the American people were predicting. “USA Today” and Gallup Poll did a survey on our expectations for 2013 and our expectations were not optimistic. Eighty- two percent of us think taxes will rise and sixty-five percent of us expect a year of economic difficulty. Sixty-eight percent expect crime to increase. Only half of us think our nation’s youth will have a better life than their parents and only half of us believe our nation’s best years are ahead. According to a recent Pew Research poll one-third of the American population view themselves as being in the lower class. Fifty- seven percent of those polled think our power in the world will decline.
Part of our pessimism is certainly the impact of recent economic and political difficulties and worries that China is currently gaining much of the world’s manufacturing and control over the world’s resources. Many fear that China may overtake us as the top economic power within the next decade.
Small business enterprises are the number one employer in the United States. Local and state governments, who have historically recruited outside industry and manufacturing, are finding fewer firms to recruit. We need to empower our citizens and our communities by strengthening existing small businesses and helping those who wish to create their own small business or enterprise.
Nearly all jobs and businesses require those involved to be computer literate. According to the U. S. Department of Commerce twenty-eight percent of U. S. adults do not use the internet. The computer literacy gap is one of our biggest barriers to obtaining jobs and to small business development in the United States. Small community based business entrepreneurial development and educational centers helping to develop small businesses and teaching business fundamentals and focusing on the development of business plans, sources of loans, fundamental accounting and tax practices, ecommerce, market research and business computer programs are needed in all communities.
The future of our nation’s economy has a great deal to do with our optimism as citizens. Small business development through non-profit or community based educational centers to close our computer literacy gap and offer training in small business development is a grass roots solution that will strengthen local economies.
Community Colleges offer classes in this area and some nonprofits are providing training and support for interested citizens but more needs to be done. Availability of this knowledge to all citizens is vital and high tech computer classrooms are essential.
Communities empowering citizens will help restore our optimism and our faith in the American dream.
Dr. Gordon Mercer is past president and on the Board of Trustees of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society and professor emeritus at Western Carolina University. Marcia Gaines Mercer is a published children’s author and columnist. They own a place in nearby Garden City and were married in Charleston in 1985.