Southern states should try to develop
workers resilient enough to switch careers to meet the changing
demands of the global economy, the president and chief executive
officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta said Saturday.
"In the diverse Southeast economy - with the pressure of
globalization and technological change - the required skill set
will change constantly," Dennis P. Lockhart said at the Southern
Governors' Association convention that opened Saturday.
"We hear often that a person who will spend 40 years in the
labor force may have not only multiple jobs but also three or four
distinct careers," Lockhart said. "For many, personal retooling
is not just a choice - it's a matter of survival."
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, said about 800
people - governors, staff members, corporate representatives and
others - are expected to attend the three-day convention at the
Beau Rivage Casino. SGA's members are the governors of 16 states
from Texas to Virginia, plus the governors of Puerto Rico and the
U.S. Virgin Islands.
William Poole, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of St.
Louis, and Richard W. Fisher, president and CEO of the Federal
Reserve Bank of Dallas, also spoke at the meeting.
Fisher said the South is "an economic juggernaut."
"The American public reads almost daily about the great
economic power rising on the far side of the Pacific," Fisher
said. "Well, you might remind your constituents and the press
every now and then that the 16 states that you govern and that my
colleagues and I serve, all told, produce a combined output that is
76 percent greater than China's."
He said that for the South to keep its economic footing, leaders
must emphasize education and acknowledge that technology has
brought dramatic changes to the global economy.
"The development of human capacity through education should be
the highest policy priority of any government in the South or
anywhere else," Fisher said.
He said China, India, Vietnam and Eastern Europe are occupying
the lower rungs of the global economic ladder.
"There are 3 billion or more fervent, wannabe capitalists among
them who want to be rich like us," Fisher said. "We cannot stop
them, nor should we bother trying."
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, said that within one
generation, he has seen the textile industry move from the North to
the South within the United States, then to Mexico, then to Asia.
He cited an example of a textile mill that closed in the small town
of Tallassee. Many of the 400 workers who lost their jobs at the
mill found new jobs at an aerospace industry about eight miles
away, he said, and their pay went from about $10 an hour to almost
"People are resilient and they are trainable, teachable,"
Riley said. "We just have to be ready to change."
Poole said state leaders need to examine ways to move workers
into higher skill jobs that could increase their pay and boost the
economy. He said the change can be difficult for some.
"It is often the case that, unfortunately, that some people
will sit in these relatively low-value employments until they get a
kick from behind that forces them and they end up being happier
having gone through the transition," Poole said.
Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, said people who are
"not just native protectionists" often argue that foreign
governments subsidize some industries and make trade more
"We do see benefits of globalism but we also hear the
discontent of communities that lose jobs," Kaine said.
Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, said Southern states
are still aggressively seeking manufacturing jobs because they
provide economic stability.
"We can talk Internet technologies and trying to make a living
off the Internet all we want," Blanco said. "There are just lots
and lots of people who are never going to do that, and they still
need to eat and they still need to be able to provide for their