For those who have regularly attended the Southern Colorado Economic Forum for much of its 19-year existence, the annual keynote message on Oct. 23 at The Broadmoor came as no big surprise.
Without fail, even during the darkest times surrounding the Great Recession of 2008-09, the guest speaker has painted a positive outlook for the nation and our corner of the world.
This year’s forum brought a new keynoter, and yes, his tone was upbeat — with plenty of humor and convincing statistics that many of the 600 business and civic leaders hadn’t heard.
Brian Beaulieu, head of ITR Economics in Manchester, N.H., crammed several hours’ worth of material and perspective into 45-50 minutes. You won’t find many other economists as entertaining and mesmerizing, anywhere.
For starters, Beaulieu made the best case you’ll ever hear for why America shouldn’t shudder in fear of China. He began with a shocker: China’s population imbalance means 150 million Chinese men don’t have a woman in their life. So much for companionship, for families driving the economic engine and for developing tomorrow’s workforce.
As of now, the United States provides 22.5 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, with China at a distant 13.4 percent. As China’s population stagnates and declines, America is projected to add 100 million more (from 318 million now to 418 million) by the year 2050.
You do the math.
Continuing prosperity, Beaulieu insisted, is all about population growth and abundant natural resources. America has both; China has neither.
“What I’m saying is, stop worrying about China overtaking us,” Beaulieu said. He recalled how Americans had the same concerns about Japan in the 1980s and Germany in the ’70s, but neither materialized as a true global economic force to rival the United States. Germany ranks fourth in the world now, he said, “and we don’t even give medals for fourth place.”
What about Russia, you might think? As Beaulieu put it, “while we’re growing to 418 million by 2050, Russia will be going from 142 million to 109 [million].”
He did say that one nation in the best position to make “the next major move” is Mexico, and he had positive thoughts about Western Europe.
“But let’s stop worrying about others, and focus on here,” he said. “Especially if you’re in the service sector, fasten your seatbelts beginning in the first half of 2016.
… If your company is busy today, you’re going to be busier in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The overriding concern is that a lot of companies simply are not equipped to handle the growth that’s coming.”
Not only that, but Beaulieu emphasized we are at the epicenter.
“You’re lucky — you live in Colorado,” he said. “This is one of the most stellar places in the Union to be.”
Beaulieu displayed one informative slide with advice for businesses, such as: budget for the rise, invest in customer market research, stay on top of technology as well as training and retention, lock in costs during 2016, and prepare for the next bumpy period (not severe) projected to come around 2019.
Far beyond that, the outlook isn’t all rosy. Go to Beaulieu’s site online, and you’ll see this: “Will you be ready for the 2030 to 2040 crash? Yes, it seems far away, but ITR economists are already predicting an unprecedented global collapse just two decades away that will permanently change the way the world conducts business.”
Still, Beaulieu’s dominant message felt more like a kick in the backside.
Push your limits, he said. If you’re buying a home, sink as much as you can into it. If you’re building a business, be confident of the future by borrowing as much as possible and investing aggressively — not waiting. Don’t wait for better timing, because it will never be better.
“You get to decide your own destiny,” Beaulieu said. “The message is, this is the time in your lives to be betting on yourselves. … If you’re sleeping through the night, you have not borrowed enough money.”
Beaulieu also hit on a theme that sounded like a replay of another SCEF keynoter, Jim Paulsen of Wells Capital Management from Minneapolis, back in 2012. Just a few weeks before the last presidential election, Paulsen said it didn’t matter if the winner would be Obama or Romney — that leader would benefit from a strong, growing U.S. economy. Beaulieu said basically the same thing about the 2016 election, all but promising good times in 2017 and 2018.
“It doesn’t matter if the next president is Republican, Democrat or Socialist — the country will have the same outlook,” Beaulieu said. “The reality is that our economic power is not based on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
By the way, Brian Beaulieu and his company have been nailing predictions for decades without fail. And there’s no reason to doubt him now.