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How do we compete?

 
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I have all but abandoned complaing about the H1b/L1/offshoring issue. The real issue is, how do we (as in US IT people) compete and remain relevant?. I think surviving on general skills (like java) will soon be a thing of the past. The question is, what do we do ensure our relevance. I have been thinking of leveraging my java knowledge and moving into more a specialised space like data architecture, financial applications etc. ideas anyone?
 
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Originally posted by shay Aluko:
I have all but abandoned complaing about the H1b/L1/offshoring issue. The real issue is, how do we (as in US IT people) compete and remain relevant?. I think surviving on general skills (like java) will soon be a thing of the past. The question is, what do we do ensure our relevance. I have been thinking of leveraging my java knowledge and moving into more a specialised space like data architecture, financial applications etc. ideas anyone?


Shay,
Good thinking. I have always felt that Computers/software are more of a catalyst rather than substitute to the already well established fields. In some cases I was wrong because somethings today exist "because" of the software/computers but was right in the rest.
About specialzed fields why don't you try out the medical field like "imaging applications" etc.
 
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Originally posted by shay Aluko:
I have all but abandoned complaing about the H1b/L1/offshoring issue. The real issue is, how do we (as in US IT people) compete and remain relevant?. I think surviving on general skills (like java) will soon be a thing of the past. The question is, what do we do ensure our relevance. I have been thinking of leveraging my java knowledge and moving into more a specialised space like data architecture, financial applications etc. ideas anyone?


Business Analysts who have IT background seem to be doing better. I think the April 14th issue of Eweek had an article saying they are averaging $100k+. For even more hopeful news see Business 2.0 article Sept issue at your newstand, they predict severe labor shorgtage in IT in US next 10 years.
 
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Originally posted by herb slocomb:

Business Analysts who have IT background seem to be doing better. I think the April 14th issue of Eweek had an article saying they are averaging $100k+. For even more hopeful news see Business 2.0 article Sept issue at your newstand, they predict severe labor shorgtage in IT in US next 10 years.


Yes, but in what skill sets? I haven't read the article yet.
 
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Originally posted by herb slocomb:

they predict severe labor shorgtage in IT in US


US is doomed
Lets procreate and teach our kids Java!
 
frank davis
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Originally posted by leo donahue:

Yes, but in what skill sets? I haven't read the article yet.


Software engineers were at the top of the list for fastest growth and most demand. Database Admins and other IT positions were predicted to do well also. Specific skills in specific technologies could not be specified over a 10 year period being covered. From what I gathered, the demographics of the older skilled workers retiring in the next 10 years and the scarcity of younger workers to replace them is so severe that the outsourcing/H1b/L1 problems will be of no consequence. We'll be back to the 1990s where employers are begging for employees. For now, I'm letting this article give me some hope.
 
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The truth is, we can't compete. We can compete in every area but cost, and cost is the primary selection criteria these days.
We work with knowledge and almost all the knowledge we work with is available on the Internet, where Miami, New York, Bangalore and Moscow are all equi-distant. Only the cost of living is disproportionate. The only guaranteed way to have job security if you're in a cost-disadvantaged area is to possess something that's geography-based rather than knowledge-based. That is, tangible goods or face-to-face human interaction. Or at least the ability to make the executive decisions. Which is to say, if you run the business, you can determine where you live. At least until someone who lives in a cheaper area is able to use that advantage to drive you out of business.
Some people think that the model of the future is to have the analysts/architects local and the coders offshored. I don't buy that. If you take away too many of the lower-level IT jobs, the upper-level ones are going to be lacking rungs on their career ladder - the all-important rungs that build skills from experience. We might could do that if the requisite skills were available from college education, but they never have been, and it doesn't look like that's changing anytime soon.
 
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Originally posted by Tim Holloway:
The truth is, we can't compete. We can compete in every area but cost, and cost is the primary selection criteria these days.
We work with knowledge and almost all the knowledge we work with is available on the Internet, where Miami, New York, Bangalore and Moscow are all equi-distant. Only the cost of living is disproportionate. The only guaranteed way to have job security if you're in a cost-disadvantaged area is to possess something that's geography-based rather than knowledge-based. That is, tangible goods or face-to-face human interaction. Or at least the ability to make the executive decisions. Which is to say, if you run the business, you can determine where you live. At least until someone who lives in a cheaper area is able to use that advantage to drive you out of business.
Some people think that the model of the future is to have the analysts/architects local and the coders offshored. I don't buy that. If you take away too many of the lower-level IT jobs, the upper-level ones are going to be lacking rungs on their career ladder - the all-important rungs that build skills from experience. We might could do that if the requisite skills were available from college education, but they never have been, and it doesn't look like that's changing anytime soon.


Ok, we need an icon of a guy with his fingers in his ears refusing to hear the bad news.
 
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As a former "IT Architect" with Big Blue, I have done "Business Analysis" as part of my job for 15+ years. Believe me, I have applied for every Business Analysis job in a 25 mile area and they ain't happening either in this job market. And forget $100K. I am begging for something paying $70K.
[ August 22, 2003: Message edited by: Greg Neef ]
 
shay Aluko
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Originally posted by Greg Neef:
As a former "IT Architect" with Big Blue, I have done "Business Analysis" as part of my job for 15+ years. Believe me, I have applied for every Business Analysis job in a 25 mile area and they ain't happening either in this job market. And forget $100K. I am begging for something paying $70K.
[ August 22, 2003: Message edited by: Greg Neef ]


I am not referring to business analysis in this context, sure enough almost every developer has to have knowledge of the business processes in whatever problem space he is engaged in. I am talking here about real industry knowledge i.e having as much knowledge as a financial analyst or as an automotive engineer etc. That means IT people will have that rare combination of solid IT skills and process knowledge. I think that is the way to go
 
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Business Analysts who have IT background seem to be doing better. I think the April 14th issue of Eweek had an article saying they are averaging $100k+. For even more hopeful news see Business 2.0 article Sept issue at your newstand, they predict severe labor shorgtage in IT in US next 10 years.
This article is misleading , it uses Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2001 which is the problem. Do they have any more current estimates in that article? A lot has changed in two years, and I doubt if the offshore outsourcing was very much taken into consideration when they came up with their figures.
A final note, if you add up the columns for the jobs created in this article you'll see it adds up to 3.45 million jobs being created from 2001 to 2010. If the much quote Forrester research is true, here it is again, from BusinessWeek:

Now, all kinds of knowledge work can be done almost anywhere. "You will see an explosion of work going overseas," says Forrester Research Inc. analyst John C. McCarthy. He goes so far as to predict at least 3.3 million white-collar jobs and $136 billion in wages will shift from the U.S. to low-cost countries by 2015.


If it's true, it doesn't seem like there's going to be much job creation going on for the next ten years due to any gains being setoff by offshore outsourcing.
I think we all need to keep our fingers out of our ears on this one (myself included)..
[ August 22, 2003: Message edited by: Nathan Thurm ]
 
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Just a followup, I guess I'm just a little touchy today after reading the article below:
http://www.townhall.com/columnists/walterwilliams/ww20030820.shtml
Exporting jobs
Walter Williams

It'd make far more sense for Americans to start attacking the real sources that have contributed to making foreign operations more attractive to those at home. It's more effective than caving to the rhetoric of leftist and rightist interventionists who mislead us with slogans like, "How can any American worker compete with workers paid one and two dollars an hour?" when in reality our real competition is mostly with European workers earning a lot more.


The writer's arguments may be valid.. but there is an obvious, serious flaw to this piece that I found offensive and completely discredits anything he's written. I can't believe this article appeared in (somewhat) mainstream media. I've also seen this guy quoted in other articles supporting outsourcing which really makes we question where he is coming from and what his motives are if this is the best they can do and he can't even bring themselves to use recent, relevant, reliable data to support their claims.
I mean, I would love to be wrong, if the numbers started really turning around that would be great to me and everyone else obviously, but I just don't see it happening from anything I've read.
 
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The statistics for 1996 are: Out of total direct U.S. overseas investment of $796 billion, nearly $400 billion was made in Europe (England received 18 percent of it), next was Canada ($91 billion), then Asia ($140 billion), Middle East ($9 billion) and Africa ($7.6 billion).


The catch is the year: 1996 statistics are used in 2003 article?! I don't know whom this clown is got to be kidding.
 
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Originally posted by shay Aluko:

I am not referring to business analysis in this context, sure enough almost every developer has to have knowledge of the business processes in whatever problem space he is engaged in. I am talking here about real industry knowledge i.e having as much knowledge as a financial analyst or as an automotive engineer etc. That means IT people will have that rare combination of solid IT skills and process knowledge. I think that is the way to go


Hello,
You got it.

Regards,
MCao
 
frank davis
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Originally posted by Nathan Thurm:

Herb :
Business Analysts who have IT background seem to be doing better. I think the April 14th issue of Eweek had an article saying they are averaging $100k+. For even more hopeful news see Business 2.0 article Sept issue at your newstand, they predict severe labor shorgtage in IT in US next 10 years.
Nathan :
This article is misleading , it uses Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2001 which is the problem. Do they have any more current estimates in that article? A lot has changed in two years, and I doubt if the offshore outsourcing was very much taken into consideration when they came up with their figures.


I went back and double checked the eWeek April 14th article. They did not use outdated Bureau of Labor Stats as you claimed, they cited Foote Partners who do quarterly salary surveys. Neither did Business 2.0 use Bureau of Labor stats either.


I think we all need to keep our fingers out of our ears on this one (myself included)..
[ August 22, 2003: Message edited by: Nathan Thurm ]


[/QB]
There's enough bad news out there now already, no need to incorrectly dump on what little hope there is...
 
Nathan Thurm
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I went back and double checked the eWeek April 14th article. They did not use outdated Bureau of Labor Stats as you claimed, they cited Foote Partners who do quarterly salary surveys. Neither did Business 2.0 use Bureau of Labor stats either.


My mistake not specifying the article. Business 2.0 uses the Bureau of Labor stats for the 10 Fastest Growing Occupations in the graph that is referenced throughout the article on page 101. It does not give the date,
but the breakdowns are exactly the same as the 2001-2010 study. I think it's also misleading and deceptive to, to have a cover story blaring '"A Job Boom is Coming" Here's How to Prepare - What the Top Jobs Are - The Top 10 Job Occupations' and then have the core data be two years old. On top of that, this seems very intentional, they do include the dates 2003-2013 in the "The 20 Top cities" information, but for the older data in the top 10 jobs, the start date is curiously omitted.


There's enough bad news out there now already, no need to incorrectly dump on what little hope there is...


Believe me, I want to hear good news too, which is why I’m actively seeking it myself. In fact that’s what drew me to the thread, the first comment indicating disillusionment
with the L-1, H1B issue. Which is why I posted the link regarding the recent L-1 legislation introduced, I know I was reassured to hear about this development.
And, I’m definitely on the lookout for any other good news, especially as most of this is new to me and I'm learning more as I go along.
Another item that might bear watching from what I’ve read in the most recent article of BusinessWeek, is if China succumbs to the pressure
of lowering their yuan currency value against the dollar by instead reducing some of their tax subsidies for their businesses, tariffs, and other barriers to our entry
in that market which would help our trade deficit considerably and also help China too. Sounds like something will happen within the next couple years, though the yuan revaluation itself seems unlikely.
[ August 26, 2003: Message edited by: Nathan Thurm ]
 
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Shay Aluko wrote: "I am talking here about real industry knowledge i.e having as much knowledge as a financial analyst or as an automotive engineer etc. That means IT people will have that rare combination of solid IT skills and process knowledge."
In other words, the IT people won't be IT people. They'll be financial people or automotive engineers sent for a quick executive MIS graduate degree, similar to the executive MBA programs that are available.
There won't be much opportunity for IT people to gain that kind of domain experience, since they'll either not be around long enough, or they won't be given those opportunities. Even if they do get some of that domain experience, there'd be a good chance that jobs would go to the kind of people mentioned above.
[ August 29, 2003: Message edited by: Jonathan Hendry ]
 
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Originally posted by Jonathan Hendry:

There won't be much opportunity for IT people to gain that kind of domain experience, since they'll either not be around long enough, or they won't be given those opportunities. Even if they do get some of that domain experience, there'd be a good chance that jobs would go to the kind of people mentioned above.


For some reason many IT workers have trouble accepting this.
We've seen it happen in many other fields: textiles, automotive, manufacturing, children's toys... It starts out as a specialized skill and then as technology improves the skill becomes complex. The jobs move into cheap labor markets. What remains are the very complex tasks: high fashion or new materials clothing, automotive engineering even if not manufacturing, and chip design and specialized, custom manufacturing jobs.
IT has seen faster technology growth than any other field. Accept that we will see the consequences sooner. The basic jobs will be moved overseas (e.g. webservers are 20 times as advanced today as they were just 5 years ago). the more complex ones will stay here. Adapt or die.
One thing which makes IT unique is that design and manufacturing often go hand in hand--with the same people doing both roles. That might have been true for manufacturing 100-200 years ago, but not any more.
We're knowledge workers, we just need to work at a different level of knowledge.
--Mark
 
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This goes back to the original question. Can we always remain innovative enough to have something more complex to do in this country? What would be the long term outlook of the economy? If there a company X from a third world country which is under-cutting our prices in products, services, and research, how do we compete with them?
In the recent past we have seen competition stepping up in advanced research fields from other parts of the globe and I am beginning to get more skeptical if we would be able to retain our economic and technological superiority for much longer.
Any thoughts or comments?

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:

We've seen it happen in many other fields: textiles, automotive, manufacturing, children's toys... It starts out as a specialized skill and then as technology improves the skill becomes complex. The jobs move into cheap labor markets. What remains are the very complex tasks: high fashion or new materials clothing, automotive engineering even if not manufacturing, and chip design and specialized, custom manufacturing jobs.

 
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Originally posted by Naveen Kuppili:
This goes back to the original question. Can we always remain innovative enough to have something more complex to do in this country? What would be the long term outlook of the economy? If there a company X from a third world country which is under-cutting our prices in products, services, and research, how do we compete with them?
In the recent past we have seen competition stepping up in advanced research fields from other parts of the globe and I am beginning to get more skeptical if we would be able to retain our economic and technological superiority for much longer.
Any thoughts or comments?


In this neoliberal capitalism these questions hardly make any sense.
If the person is innovative why (s)he should worry about thirdworld products at lower prices?Isn't making the similar product with less price an annovative way?If there is a company X which is competing with your company,hire more innovative engineers who can make your product better.while purchasing people don't just see the price, its price and quality both.
 
frank davis
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Originally posted by Nathan Thurm:
[QB]
[QB]


My apologies Nathan, you're right about the Business 2.0 chart. I remembered the other 3 charts not being from the Bureau of Labor but the 4th one was and they did leave off the dates which was very bastardly of them. I've slammed those same stats in other posts as being deceptive and I really should have caught that one again.
However, still, the general point of the article is that the upcoming demographic tidal wave is so large that any of us still in the workforce at the end of the this 10 year period will have no problem finding jobs. The question for IT people wanting to remain in IT is which trend is bigger, the outsourcing trend or the demographic trend? (another question is how to feed ourselves while waiting for the demographic trend to get started..). I think a case can be made fo either side, so in my desire for good IT news I'm going to believe in the demographic news for at least a little while.
 
Nathan Thurm
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Herb,
I wasn't happy to see the dates left off those charts myself. And, like you, I did think that there was some encouraging information in those articles, at the very least it seems like a goal would be to hang in there as the baby boomers start to retire...
I went looking for newer statistics from BLS, doesn't seem that they'll be released until February.

"BLS 2002-2012 projections will be released in February 2004
The forthcoming BLS 2002-2012 employment projections will reflect the 2002 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) revisions, 2 years ahead of the original NAICS conversion schedule.
In order to accomplish this, the projections will be published in February 2004 rather than December 2003. The short delay permits all component series used in developing the projections to be on a NAICS basis and will make the data more useful to the public over the two-year time period that the projections are used."
 
Jonathan Hendry
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herb slocum writes: "However, still, the general point of the article is that the upcoming demographic tidal wave is so large that any of us still in the workforce at the end of the this 10 year period will have no problem finding jobs"
I'm inclined to think that this Business 2.0 article will in fact encourage companies to send the "jobs boom" jobs offshore. If there's a jobs boom due to boomer aging, that would suggest a job-seeker's market, which would mean higher salaries - which makes offshore outsourcing even more attractive. Unlike the internet boom years, companies can see this one coming, and route around it. (And if enrollment in US IT programs shrinks in the mean time, that's even more reason to plan to hire in Asia.)
I'm also reminded that Asia is much, much younger than the US; in 2010, I'll be 39 - why hire me when they could hire a much younger person in Asia, for much less money?
How many IT workers can India and China churn out by 2010? Probably more than enough to soak up much of the alleged job boom.
 
Naveen Kuppili
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As one of my professors always used to say, there are two generals approaches for a new product design - Design by Innovation, and Design by Simulation.
No matter how innovative your product is, its functionality could be easily duplicated. There are patent and copyrights that partially protect this. However, there is always a loophole which other corporations find that could work around the patents.
Obviously, the economy is a huge chain. If I do not exploit ways to make my products cheaper (by buying cheaper products / services from other countries), someone else would. And, I can no longer competitively price my product.
Still concerned in general - Can someone help me calm them

Originally posted by Capablanca Kepler:

In this neoliberal capitalism these questions hardly make any sense.
If the person is innovative why (s)he should worry about thirdworld products at lower prices?Isn't making the similar product with less price an annovative way?If there is a company X which is competing with your company,hire more innovative engineers who can make your product better.while purchasing people don't just see the price, its price and quality both.

 
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Originally posted by Naveen Kuppili:

In the recent past we have seen competition stepping up in advanced research fields from other parts of the globe and I am beginning to get more skeptical if we would be able to retain our economic and technological superiority for much longer.
Any thoughts or comments?



Find what differentiates you. Compared to other third world nations the US advantages are:
1) plentiful natural resources
2) vocal free press
3) extremely liquid markets
4) lots of capital
5) great legal, infrastructure, and cultural support for new ventures
Bio tech, for example, has very high overhead costs. Salaries aren't the limiting factor, so the US will still have an advantage there. In general, capital intensive projects will have an easier time in the US.
Singapore is a lot like the US. Modern, educated workforce and a modern society. Yet, despite government efforts, they haven't had many great innovations or startups. In that case its a cultural issue.
Finance in China is another example of something artificially limited. Without the free flow of information, free markets can't work. Capital allocation will be very limited. An industry which would rely on this might be better duplicated elsewhere.
There are just some thoughts off the top of my head. The point is to find specific differences and capitalize on them.
--Mark
 
Naveen Kuppili
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I think you have a good point. Will start thinking on those lines.
Thanks.

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:


Find what differentiates you. Compared to other third world nations the US advantages are:
1) plentiful natural resources
2) vocal free press
3) extremely liquid markets
4) lots of capital
5) great legal, infrastructure, and cultural support for new ventures
Bio tech, for example, has very high overhead costs. Salaries aren't the limiting factor, so the US will still have an advantage there. In general, capital intensive projects will have an easier time in the US.
Singapore is a lot like the US. Modern, educated workforce and a modern society. Yet, despite government efforts, they haven't had many great innovations or startups. In that case its a cultural issue.
Finance in China is another example of something artificially limited. Without the free flow of information, free markets can't work. Capital allocation will be very limited. An industry which would rely on this might be better duplicated elsewhere.
There are just some thoughts off the top of my head. The point is to find specific differences and capitalize on them.
--Mark

 
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Let's see what other countries that come to mind rank high in Mark's 5 criteria:
(1) plentiful natural resources
Canada and Russia are two other biggies here.
Maybe Brazil and Australia too.
(2) vocal free press
I believe the U.S. by far lags Europe here. London has by far a livelier and more vocal free press then N.Y. (which, a metropolis of 10+ mil people that it is has only one "serious" newspaper and one tabloid. France and Italy too. Athens, a city of 5 mil people has 20 daily newspapers. The consolidation of TV media in the States is also a bad sign wrt to this point. It is Internet that compensates for this disparity wrt to Europe. But certainly U.S. beats China in vocality and freedom of press hands down.
(3)extremely liquid markets
U.S. hands down.
(4)lots of capital
Japan has a lot of capital too. Also, Western Europe.
(5) great legal, infrastructure, and cultural support for new ventures
This is an Anglo-Saxon thing. That's one of the reasons why Hong Kong and Singapore are what why currently are vs (say) Macao. Similarly, this is why Ireland is what it is in Europe vs (say) Greece.
Don't forget that U.S. is the core Anglophone country in an industry whose lingua franca is English. India and Ireland have capitalized on this. For China this is a huge competitive disadvantage versus their big Asian neighbor and antagonist. Also, it facilitates immigration ($$$ and scientific leadership being the two biggies of course) -- one of the reasons the U.K. has more IT foreign IT specialists than Norway or the Netherlands.
BTW, what would be the list of 5 most important disadvantages for the States in competing with the world? Cost is one. What about demographics (and this affects the West in general?) What about education and inclination of high-school grads to become techies? Could this be a advantage for countries like China and Russia?

Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:


Find what differentiates you. Compared to other third world nations the US advantages are:
1) plentiful natural resources
2) vocal free press
3) extremely liquid markets
4) lots of capital
5) great legal, infrastructure, and cultural support for new ventures
Bio tech, for example, has very high overhead costs. Salaries aren't the limiting factor, so the US will still have an advantage there. In general, capital intensive projects will have an easier time in the US.
Singapore is a lot like the US. Modern, educated workforce and a modern society. Yet, despite government efforts, they haven't had many great innovations or startups. In that case its a cultural issue.
Finance in China is another example of something artificially limited. Without the free flow of information, free markets can't work. Capital allocation will be very limited. An industry which would rely on this might be better duplicated elsewhere.
There are just some thoughts off the top of my head. The point is to find specific differences and capitalize on them.
--Mark


[ August 29, 2003: Message edited by: Panagiotis Varlagas ]
 
Tim Holloway
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Actually, you don't have to have plentiful natural resources. Just enough of at least one resource that people with money want. Supply, as I've noted before, isn't what drives a market -- it's demand. Sometimes you can manufacture a demand, but one way or other, there has to be a demand. All supply does is determine how much you can charge to meet that demand.
Natural resources, of course, are proof against offshoring, being geographically-specific (unlike knowledge-based resources). However, the catch is that any recognized natural resource has some fat rich bastard already sitting on it, and you don't get rich just working in the mine.
The trick is to find something that everyone considers worthless and grab it first. And a lot of fortunes have been made doing just that. However, it can be darned hard to do. You may be the one that recognizes that that worthless crumbly gray rock over there is the ideal material for the next high-demand electronics or biotech (or whatever) craze, but you'll have to be in the right place in the right time and command the right resources (some of that free-flowing capital helps).
Actually, the position of the US - or at least New York - as well as other financial centers around the world as "focus points" for money is mostly a legacy of days when both personal transportation and information transportation were more limited. We've seen the rise of distributed financial exchanges over the last 20-30 years, so the idea of geographically-defined "focus points" might eventually disappear.
In the mean time, if any of us are going to end up living next door to Bill Gates, we'll have to find some concrete way to take advantage of all this wisdom swirling around here. I seem to recall hearing it said that abstractions are fine things, but you can't eat one.
 
"To do good, you actually have to do something." -- Yvon Chouinard
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