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-3If you want to feel good about our chances in the global economy, talk to Bruce Katz.

Katz, the Brooking Institution’s main policy wonk, says together as Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement, Louisville and Lexington have a limitless commercial future if we refocus on developing the human capital, infrastructure and innovation required to compete in the Brave New World of advanced manufacturing

“I think Louisville and Lexington could be at the vanguard of a movement of national renewal here, ” Katz said. “And I think it fundamentally starts with what your mayors and your businesses and your universities are already doing together … getting back to the basics of what made this country great in the first place.”

It turns out the secret sauce of 21st century global competition is the secret sauce of the 20th century — developing the talent to manufacture quality products we can export to the rest of the world.

Katz says the now collaboratively linked cities of Louisville and Lexington – once rivals – are positioned perfectly for the ongoing Second Global Industrial Revolution. And Katz should know … he’s a vice president at the Brookings Institution and founding director of the Washington D.C.-based think tank’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

The big question he asked 300 of Louisville’s top community, financial, political and business leaders this morning was, “Who is Louisville’s true sister city? Who will be your partner in the world?”

Student and cultural exchanges are fine, Katz said, but cities that seek out city-to-city commitments to trade will grow and prosper together.

Katz used the example of Chicago and Mexico City signing a bilateral city-to-city trade agreement – independent of U.S./Mexico treaties – last November, and the billions in cross-border investment and trade that have ensued.

Okay, the fine print: To take part in the great global manufacturing renaissance, we have to leave behind the “New Economy” thinking of the 1980s and 1990s, based on consumption and consumer debt.

“We had this vision we were somehow going to be a post-industrial economy because manufacturing was the old economy. That didn’t work out too well, ” Katz said. “We need to get back to fundamentals … to the economy that is fueled by innovation. Not just idea generation, but production. We need to make things.”

Katz noted that Germany, unlike the U.S., has never sought to compete globally on price and cheap wages, but on quality manufacturing.

Louisville and Lexington leadership has to figure out some way to create talent who can in turn create the products and services the world wants, then export them to the rest of the world, he said.

“If you do that, you will be a prosperous place, and you will create jobs for people who don’t have jobs, or have jobs that don’t pay well enough.” Katz did not spare the audience some unpleasant truths. Because the United States, unlike Germany, took its “eye off the ball” of industrial innovation, we’re not turning out potential employees with technical skills sufficient to compete in a world where quality rules.

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