White House Visit

Jul 4th 2012

L-R: George Timmering, Mayor Fischer, Joe Steier


Several weeks back, I was very blessed to go with my childhood best friend, George, to the White House with Mayor Fischer and a diverse group of community business leaders who help define one of the most livable cities anywhere in the U.S. – Louisville!
What a great experience, walking the White House grounds, feeling the famed White House with the Mayor and new friends all feeling the same humble respect and awe of our amazing heritage while getting ready for the meeting with many of President Obama’s top leaders at a facilitated lunch about each leaders special journey and why we were all there. You always think your walk is really special, but there were many who inspired me to think bigger by just hearing their stories.
It was time.

Initial observations: The meeting was professional and transparent, and facilitated as well as anything I have seen in my experience with developing government partnerships. And it was not about who donated the most money and who had greater access like usual. This was about open dialogue to unleash and support the unbridled American spirit.
Here is what I learned…
First, the business council model seems to reflect President Obama’s prior experience where he wants to address issues from a community perspective which seemed very genuine. There were several dozen cities that made the same trip, so it was definitely a great way to learn, discuss issues, and have real access to cabinet leadership.  Every cabinet leader gave you their contact info, cards, and email address, asking to reach out to them so we could go deeper as soon as possible.
Second, regardless of what party you are rooted in, there is definitely great innovation going on everywhere in our country that has nothing to do with party affiliation, stimulus, or tax planning. The American spirit was very present in every discussion with both sides…if it was debating which way to blow up the education system, flooding the market with millions of data warehouses of information to develop informatics businesses through “hack parties,” or looking at options for a national network of car charging stations.  People are on the move, new companies are opening faster and cheaper than ever before, and ‘Startup Nation’ is on a rebound that will not show up this quarter, but there will be more Googles, eBays, Apples, Facebooks, etc. – it is coming faster than you realize!
Third, manufacturing is making a real comeback that is sustainable and bringing pride back to all of us. I am a son of a union bricklayer where we could only buy American even if it was made with the same poor quality that started our steady decline – but not any longer. This reemergence will have the highest dollar velocity impact of anything we can do short and long term. I was sitting next to the president of Toyota, William James, hearing his private view. Also sharing was Ford’s leadership discussing new energy platforms, new technologies, and why people want to make things in the U.S. again. You name it: government stability, knowledge, innovation, B2B competencies, a more flexible work force, our innovation mindset, or world class logistics…we can be #1 again. I could feel it!
Fourth, if the economic base models have any validity from societies progressing from agriculture to industrial to service to simulation to imagery…as ways to advance society, then the new economy may be the rise of informatics that could be bigger than the Internet’s initial arrival with regard to direct short-term economic impact. The government agency led by Todd Parks realized that all of the vast information stored by the government can change lives, lifestyles, causation, and how we think – and since we paid for it as taxpayers, why not give to us in any form we would like.  Weather patterns, healthcare claims, demographics, location of farmers’ markets, commodity pricing, family make-up, and personal characteristics, can all be the next IPOs because they provide simulations that can change human behavior without a loss of freedom but better information at everyone fingers tips. Look for thousands of IPOs in next three to five years, with health informatics being the first leader that will have international appeal and implications. Trust me, healthcare costs are coming down regardless of the Affordable Care Act because we see things immediately. Consumers finally want to own their own healthcare, and connected healthcare is just around the corner.
Lastly, we have the perfect mayor at the perfect time. They already really know who he is up there and like his strategic plan for Louisville. Equally important, they want Ted Smith, our innovation leader for the city, back in D.C. because he is world class and understands the power of advanced manufacturing, the potential of health informatics, and how to build a true entrepreneurial city that 10 years from today will look like the perfect plan for a city which needed to consider new heights.

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