FORT WAYNE – There is a war coming, Jim Clifton says, and winning it will not be easy.
The war, the CEO of Gallup says, will be a war for jobs, and losing could mean the slow, painful death of a city.
Fear is a huge driver for all of us, Clifton says. You dont really get going and do all the things you need to do until youre really afraid.
Those who are not afraid will be after reading Cliftons book, The Coming Jobs War. Clifton will talk about his observations at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday as part of the IPFW Omnibus Lecture Series.
Clifton said the book, released two years ago, is a hit within its small niche.
Its got its own nasty kind of cult following among city leaders, Clifton said, laughing. It has no appeal at all to a man or woman on the street.
And Clifton would know that – hes CEO of Gallup, a leader in public opinion research. The 75 years of research by Gallup have led Clifton to believe that what people want most is a good job, and that desire will drive decisions that make or break cities. People will go where jobs are being created, and flee cities where they are not.
(The book) has become required reading for people scared theyre losing their cities, Clifton said. The deeper into the material you get, the more frightened you get.
Its a threat officials in northeast Indiana are taking seriously. The Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership joined with IPFW and Lutheran Health Network to bring Clifton here, and the partnership says more than 400 people in the region have read Cliftons book.
Wednesday morning, Clifton will address the Regional Opportunities Council, made up of more than 100 leaders who guide the regions priorities.
Clifton said the importance of the efforts local leaders make can be seen starkly in Tennessee.
You can have one city thats on a fast road to having a Detroit-like environment, then you can have others like Nashville, he said. Memphis really has problems, but Nashvilles like Austin (Texas) – its unstoppable.
Once the negative cycle begins, it is difficult to turn around, and it breeds social problems that only worsen the situation. Sagging economies and falling populations lead to revenue losses for local governments – the very entities most in position to change things.
As your revenue goes down, you have to raise taxes, Clifton said, a move that stifles things further. Unless you keep that (gross domestic product) growing, hell is coming slowly, and then suddenly.
He says the key to winning the jobs war is having a core group of about 100 leaders – such as government officials, pastors, philanthropists, coaches and local celebrities – who will do anything it takes.
This is my conclusion: If you have a city that has a hundred leaders, caring leaders, that are willing to put their lives on the line for their city, you can have a Nashville or an Austin, Clifton said. But youve got to change your spirit, your energy, your very soul.
Local officials say theyve done just that in recent years.
Cliftons book emphasizes the role of local leadership in creating a regions economic future, said Brian Bauer, CEO of Lutheran Health Network. Were looking forward to hearing his insights on how northeast Indiana can continue to work together to build upon the solid foundation thats already in place.
John Sampson, president and CEO of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, said Cliftons message aligns perfectly with the groups Vision 2020 efforts, aimed at aligning the regions economic development efforts.
Without qualified talent to fill jobs, employers will locate elsewhere, Sampson said. Cliftons presence in northeast Indiana will create a sense of urgency to coalesce around the regional priorities of Vision 2020. This is all about growing GDP in northeast Indiana, and Clifton will be able to help us bring that point home.