David Houle travels the globe as a futurist, speaking to CEOs and business leaders about the trends that are shaping the world. Based in Sarasota and Chicago, Houle, the author of several books, will be the keynote speaker at the Suncoast Workforce’s Annual Meeting, Sept. 29, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club, where he will discuss the future of the region’s workforce development, education and healthcare. His most recent book (co-authored with local Bradenton attorney Jonathan Fleece) is The New Health Age: the Future of Healthcare and Medicine in America. Houle has just been named Ringling College of Art and Design’s futurist in residence and has begun teaching as an adjunct faculty member in the college’s Business of Art and Design program.
How will the continuing debate over our national debt affect our national psyche?
In 2007 I said that "thrift would be the new cool." In 2010 I said that this trend combined with the deleveraging of household debt would initiate what I have called the "less is more" trend. People are living with less stuff. The connection between "need" and "want" has been broken. Want no longer translates into a purchase, and need gets postponed. The consumer will not lead the country out of recession anytime soon. The loss of faith in Washington and the lowered debt rating will only accentuate this trend.
What’s ahead for the local economy?
I look five to 15 years out. The four horsemen that have driven the local economy—agriculture, retirement, tourism and real estate—are never going to come back. Aim toward the new shape of the next 15 to 20 years. The economy will come back, just more slowly than we hoped for. Sarasota/Bradenton will probably be slower than the national economy.
What will our new shape be?
Intellectual property is the wealth of the shift age [Houle’s name for the current era of change and also the name of one of his books]. Look at intellectual property you can sell around the world. Don’t open a shop, a real estate office, a restaurant. Your customers need to be in California, Paris, Vancouver, Atlanta, Chicago. You can work from your house. You do not need to go to an office unless you have to collaborate.
Can you give us an example of such an intellectual property?
Technology consumption. IPhone apps are an $8 billion-$9 billion industry that didn’t exist three years ago. It creates a lot of money. Places in a highly connected world can benefit from this new opportunity. Places where people like to live. So why shouldn’t they choose to live here? This area has beauty, academics, technology. We could have a renaissance here with an entirely different mix of industries.
So real estate will no longer be a cornerstone of the economy?
You can buy if you have a five-year window or longer. The real estate market will come back over the next 10 years. It will not experience the boom of 2002-2007. I’m astounded by all the new retail development here. Globally speaking, there’s no need for any more square feet. It’s about retrofitting existing space. Make a vacant strip mall an urgent care facility. If you’re in real estate, how can you make money in different ways? How do you adapt? Large homes could be subdivided for two baby boomer couples. Waiting for the market to come back is not a dynamic way to make a living. Building office parks is not a good business model. That’s old thinking.
What do you see as our new identity?
What do you want to be? The Tech Coast? The IT Coast? The Health Coast? The Green Coast? You need to choose what you want to be. Detroit is interesting. It’s being reborn as an art community and an urban green community.
Once we decide our new direction, how do we make it happen?
Tax credits, an emphasis on the arts, becoming start-up friendly.
Anything else you’d suggest locals consider as a better opportunity?
Healthcare. But the components will change from procedures to prevention. Primary care physicians will become central. Doctors will be paid for keeping patients out of the hospital.
What sorts of changes are you recommending in your book, The New Health Age?
My co-author, Jonathan Fleece, and I are calling for "The Race to a Healthy America," a 10- to 15-year national commitment to making America the healthiest country in the world. This is this generation’s "race to the moon" and, similar to that race, it could have unintended and positive side effects such as increased productivity, innovation and happiness. Americans must become more intelligent about and committed to healthy living. That, more than anything else, will lower long-term healthcare costs in our country. We hope to make it patriotic to be healthy.
What will you be teaching at
I am a futurist, and my upper-level courses are about what the future of creativity might look like. Take what was and what is and cast it into the future.
What are the three hottest jobs right now?
No. 1, the job you create for yourself. No. 2, a job in the new transformative world of healthcare. No. 3, any job that either provides travel around the world or connects you on a daily basis to people around the world.
Some people believe America’s best days are over. What do you think?
If we don’t better our educational system or become a healthy country, it doesn’t matter what we do.
Biz(941) is a sponsor of David Houle’s talk on Sept. 29 at the Suncoast Workforce Annual Meeting
Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club
7650 Legacy Blvd.
Lakewood Ranch, FL 34202
11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
For more information,
call Holly Smith at (941) 358-4080 ext. 1117.