Sunday, March 11, 2007

Youngstown had decades of warning, Toffler says

Friday, March 9, 2007
Youngstown needs to be home to new technologies and ideas, an author says.


YOUNGSTOWN — It's easy but foolish and shortsighted to blame the Mahoning Valley's losing thousands of manufacturing jobs between 1995 and 2005 solely on outsourcing and globalization.

If Youngstown is going to continue to make an economic comeback, it needs to understand its challenges in a broader context.

These are a few of the opinions Alvin Toffler offered in a lecture he gave Thursday at Stambaugh Auditorium. His appearance was sponsored by Youngstown State University.

Toffler wrote several best-selling books such as "Future Shock." He spoke about the numerous significant economic and societal changes that have their roots going back at least 50 years. His latest book, written with his wife, Heidi, is "Revolutionary Wealth."

"The usual explanations [regarding job losses] are simple-minded at best and wrong at worst," Toffler told his audience of a few hundred.

The decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs got under way in the 1950s, and in 1956, such jobs fell below 50 percent of the nation's work force for the first time, he noted.

Time of change

Contrary to popular opinion, the '50s was anything but a docile decade. It was a time of huge government investment in science, and when drugs became more prevalent in society; in addition, movies were starting to extol various negative values, Toffler pointed out.

The loss of jobs in the manufacturing sector didn't develop suddenly; Youngstown and other similar cities had "decades of warning" about economic changes that would occur, but many city leaders failed to see or comprehend their importance, he continued.

With today's economy, which Toffler referred to as the "third wave," Youngstown needs to be home to new technologies and ideas while embracing and adapting to changes brought about by an economy that's increasingly knowledge-based, he noted. Toffler praised the Youngstown 2010 plan and other local initiatives, saying they're steps in the right direction.

Becoming obsolete

Factors that are becoming less common are 9-to-5 jobs, work in offices and factories, and the structure of the nuclear family, Toffler said. More positions have variable schedules, and more people are working from their homes, he added.

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