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Look at the New Economy, Just Like the Old Economy

Plymouth, Wis. - Now that the promise of Silicon Valley has joined the doom of Y2K in the ash heap of history, it is an appropriate time to revisit the importance of technology to Northeast Wisconsin. After billions and billions of dollars have been spent on marketing the so-called new economy, one fact remains: More money must come into a business or industry than goes out!

In this post-technology age, the only thing about technology that matters is what people and companies can do with it. Put differently, the balance of power is being shifted from suppliers of technology to the users of technology. This process has been aided by the ever-shrinking costs of the building blocks of computer hardware and software, plus the spread of industry standards for all technology. Overall, these trends will continue to increase the downward pressure on prices for end-users.

Many experts argue that modern technology is going the way of other seismic changes in the way the world works like railroads, telegraph, electricity, radio, and television. From the heady days of boom-time, each new large idea has become another commodity input. Now that the blush of technological arrogance has ended, most purveyors of technology must now address their corporate customers with a certain amount of humility as they help their clients achieve cost-cutting, improved customer services, and facilitated speed to market with new products. Ultimately, the newly emerging trends suggest that the global reach of the Internet is now being complimented by the use of different technological infrastructures that actually cooperates with each other. Delivering the hottest technology no longer sells, instead delivering real sales increases or cost reductions does.

At a break-out session at the 2003 Economic Summit in Milwaukee, I asked a panel of technologists the following question: “Why are you modeling Wisconsin’s technology initiatives on the failed business model of Silicon Valley?” This question is even more apropos today.

As a person with Heins-sight, I would like to suggest a more practical approach to technology and Wisconsin’s large manufacturing base. It is as follows: Wisconsin can certainly become a global leader for the integration of technology and manufacturing.
Companies like Quad/Graphics, Oshkosh Truck, Menasha Corporation, Rockwell Automation and Orion already represent an important new methodology. Each designs products that use technology to improve productivity and cut costs in the manufacturing process. By better utilizing our state resources, Wisconsin can raise the standard of living of its workers and the quality of life for its citizens. Additionally, it can open new markets both nationally and internationally for its innovative products and services by having a real competitive advantage.

Now that the idea of a “new economy” is dead, why doesn’t Wisconsin help transform the manufacturing process into an effective and technological model for the future? In the current economic climate, Wisconsin has an opportunity to use its strengths instead of apologizing for them.

Stephen Heins, "the word merchant," is Vice President of Corporate Communication at Orion Energy Systems. He can be contacted at

The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, & do not necessarily reflect the views of the Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC. (WTN). WTN, LLC accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.

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