A/E Advisors Keynote a Huge Hit

A/E Advisors CEO Roundtable keynote speaker Herb Meyer presented a fascinating, if sometimes chilling outlook on world economics and politics at the group’s three-day summit in Scottsdale, Arizona. Meyer, a former high-level U.S. intelligence official, is a frequent guest of television talk shows and the author of the book Real-World Intelligence.

Demographics played a large role in Meyer’s worldview; he explained that a birth rate of 2.1 is necessary to maintain consistent human population and that many countries are well below that level. Specifically, he offered statistical evidence that large, industrialized countries in Europe and Asia are “on a downward spiral” because their birth rates aren’t sufficient to sustain their economic standing in an increasingly aging society. For example, Meyer said, India will soon outdistance China in terms of economic power and influence because China’s birth rate is unable to keep pace with the population growth necessary to continue moving ahead.

Meyer also compared the conflict between radical Islam and modern Western Civilization as a “clash of competing operating systems.” He added that people could debate whether the Iraq War was executed properly and/or worth the expense, but that it is ultimately a “spectacular success” because it created a democratic state in the Middle East. He was less encouraged about the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has regained power, and somewhat horrified by recent events in Pakistan, where the Taliban is attempting to wrest control from a government that possesses nuclear weapons.

The connection between Meyer’s assessment of the geopolitical landscape and the challenges facing the A/E business leaders in the room was often thin (which was just fine with the vast majority of the audience, based on their favorable reaction to his speech). However, he did offer a bit of sage business advice relative to the world events he discussed in his speech. Most notably, Meyer said that the middle class is expanding by millions of people worldwide every year and, to meet the needs of this explosion of consumers, companies that can create products and services that are “clever, inexpensive, and green” will take the lead.

Meyer’s keynote was the highlight of a three-day CEO summit sponsored by leading A/E industry consultants, A/E Advisors. The program featured a day dedicated exclusively to CEOs of firms with fewer than 150 employees, a day dedicated exclusively to firms with more than 150 employees, and a middle day where both groups came together to share their thoughts, ideas, and war stories as the industry tries to survive the current economic downturn.

Structural engineer Charles Thornton provided the other keynote presentation, advocating for the use of building information modeling (BIM) as well as for the ACE mentor program that exposes inner-city high school students to the A/E profession. Thornton, a co-founder of Thornton Tomasetti Engineers in New York City, also founded the ACE program.

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