March  2013 
Volume 8

NO 3

U.S. Energy Propelling Return of
Manufacturing to U.S.

Online Education, the New Economy Saver?

Friend vs. Employee

Shutterfly Still Flying High 
















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The United States once, long ago, made 40 percent of the manufactured goods on earth!

Now, we make 18 percent. American Girl dolls are from China. Levi's primarily made in Mexico. Movies made in Vancouver that vastly surpass in numbers those made domestically.


Yet after decades of outsourcing to India, China, other countries, the U. S. has made a meaningful comeback.


In Michigan Ford Motor and Whirlpool have made huge strides in returning manufacturing to our homeland, making more of their good in the States than in the past several decades.


Apple, Caterpillar and General Electric have also made large gains in domestically-made products, moved back from foreign lands.


Why are they doing this?


According to Barron's John Kuczala, America's cheaper energy, stagnant wages and weak dollar are the primary reasons. Samsung is building a new $4 billion semiconductor plant in Texas. Airbus SAS in building a new factory in Alabama and Toyota intends to market minivans made in Indiana to Asia.


The long-lamented Rust Belt, once the kingdom of manufacturing in the U. S., is renewing itself because of rising wages and the cost of industrial-quality land in Asia.


But the biggest reasons, Barron's reports, is the energy boom in the U. S. Extracting oil and gas from shale, North America now produces more natural gas than any other continent. Unlike oil, gas is not easily transported across oceans and this makes some of the world's cheapest energy within our reach.


"The U. S. is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas," believes Nancy Lazar, co-head of the New York based research firm of International Strategy and Investment.


The U. S. energy boom got started with fracking, a controversial process in which pressurized fluids are pumped through rock formations, often a mile or more long, underground, to extract oil and gas.


Since 2006, Barron's reported, U. S. production of petroleum and natural gas have increased from 15 million barrels a day to 20.1 million. In the same period of six years, imports have fallen from 14 million barrels per day to a 25-year low below eight million.


By 2020, the U. S. will become the world's biggest oil producer according to the International Energy Agency. And ExxonMobil predicts that by 2025 North America will become a new energy exporter.


 Larry Eiler 




Online Education, the New Economy Saver?

In a recent article in The New York Times titled "Revolution Hits the Universities," Tomas L. Friedman, refers to global online higher education. The revolution of global online education is talked about as the most promising potential to lift America out of economic poverty by providing Americans with an affordable education. The most promising factor about offering the option of online higher education is that is unlocks the opportunity of education to individuals who may work full time or don't have access to a university location.


When attempting to re-imagine higher education the thought of opening large online courses is the most promising idea this country has yet. Online platforms are being developed all over the country, currently by the likes of Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Today, we have 2.4 million students taking 214 online courses," said Daphne Koller a computer scientist for Stanford who co-founded Coursea an online education development corporation. "By unlocking these online courses it provides our country with unlimited potential, for instance the story of Daniel, a 17 year-old with autism."


Daniel often only communicates by computer. He has been taking online courses through Coursea, where he was able to stay on task while using the online learning program that does not strain his social skills. Daniel, because of his autism has problems with attention deficit, social skills and problems looking people in the eye. By taking these online courses he is able to avoid these problems associated with his autism. After the success of his online modern poetry class Daniel took through the program, he wrote a letter to the program in which he wrote:


"Please tell Coursera and my story. I am a 17-year-old boy emerging from autism. I can't yet sit still in a classroom so your course was my first real course ever. During the course, I had to keep pace with the class, which is unheard-of in special education. Now I can benefit from having to work hard and enjoy being in sync with the world."



 Ann Travis 


Friend vs. Employee?


Job interviews today are becoming more and more like a round of speed dating. According to a recent article in the January 2013 Businessweek titled "Only BFFS apply," by Logan HIll; job interviews have become more like a first date rather than an employment interview. An audit staff applicant at a New York accounting firm, Ernst & Young asked, "what are the top five cities you'd want to go and why?" An online magazine asked an editor, "where do you vacation in the summer?"


In the increasingly slow economy, employers are becoming more focused on employee retention and fit is believed to be a strong predictor of hiring an employee and the employee sticking around. "The longer employees stay around, the more companies save on hiring and on-boarding costs." Zappos the all online retailer offers news employees who are struggling $4,000 to quit after a week's work, rather than waste resources to train someone who doesn't gel or fit in with the group.


According to the American Sociological Review, a Northwestern professor, Lauren Rivera, believes companies are making hiring decisions as a way they would make a decision on the choice of friends or romantic partner. The term "cultural fit" is becoming a powerful buzzword among human resources professionals when determining is a professional will be able to fit in with the current professional atmosphere of the company. Creating a cohesive and creative atmosphere has proven to make workdays more tolerable and stop problems before they begin.


The sandwich chain, Pret A Manger, even goes so far as to have potential employees work one day, then after the existing team either votes the new employee in or out. Applicants who don't get along with others are paid for their time and then asked to leave. Although lately companies prefer to hire employees that have the right "cultural fit," they may want to remain aware that diversity is one of the important qualities a company needs to drive new business and innovative ideas.









Shutterfly Still Flying High


In an article titled, "Shutterflys Improbably Long Lifespan," by Ashlee Vance for Bloomberg Businessweek, discusses the successes of Shutterfly an online photo service that caters to families. Jeffery Housenbold, the chief executive officer of Shutterfly, sat down recently for a meal and witnessed a diner at a local Italian restaurant, take a photo of his food and begin to upload his meal onto Instagram. Housenbold recalls the experience, "I don't have photos of people's dinner on my service, I have 16 billion memories."


Housenbold uses instances like this to recall why he's not worried about Shutterflys position in this every changing world we live in. The company is based out of Redwood City, California and has based its foundation on creating digital snapshots into tangible things such as, custom photobooks, calendars, greeting cards, wedding invitations, and even all decals totaled in estimated $600 million in 2012.


Founded in 1999, Shutterfly has been surrounded by criticism for much of its existence. The company has faced off with over a thousand competitors since starting such as, Kodak, Hewlett Packard, Walgreens, Wal-Mart Stores and Yahoo! Its odds of survival seemed slow, but Shutterfly has proceeded 47 straight quarters of revenue growth. Sales for Shutterfly have also multiplied are now home to 70 phetabytes' worth of family memories, making it the largest service of its kind.


Despite its solid financial performance, Shutterfly has a roller coaster of stock history, reflecting investors continuing concerns that Shutterfly will be edged out by its competitors. However, Shutterfly is happy to report that they have continued to prove investors wrong year after year.






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