Expert: Connect the dots, help business thrive

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

Published:

Updated: March 2, 2012, 4:39 PM

 

When international analyst and economist Alan Beaulieu scans the world economic landscape, he sees connections of all kinds, including the ties that bind seemingly disparate things like pets, water and exports to Canada.

And if you want to operate as a savvy businessperson, you need to see the connections that matter most, too, he said Friday during his three-hour presentation to a gathering of about 250 businesspeople at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.

During part of his talk, which covered everything from China’s economy to the European debt crisis, Beaulieu concentrated on helping area business leaders develop ways to brace themselves against a recession.

Take, for instance, what pets, water and exports to Canada share in common, he said: They’re all part of a key group of countercyclical market opportunities that companies can use to grow and to shield themselves against economic turmoil.

Aging baby boomers and senior citizens like pets, Beaulieu said, because they’re warm and furry and keep people happy. People buy them, feed them and care for them — spending a lot of money along the way.

Beaulieu, principal of the Institute for Trend Research in Boscawen, N.H., wasn’t kidding about pets as a growth industry: Americans spent $50.96 billion on their pets in 2011 — an all-time high — according to a Friday report by the American Pet Products Association.

As to the issue of water, Beaulieu said, China is where U.S. companies should focus. That’s because hundreds of cities in that country lack clean water. Companies that develop products to help fix that problem will be well-positioned to fight off another recession in the years ahead, he said.

Then there are exports to Canada. Beaulieu said that country’s growing appetite for overseas products — coupled with a stable, smartly regulated banking industry — form an economy that companies would do well to capitalize on.

Beaulieu sprinkled his data-drenched presentation with one-liners and political barbs, including a shot at North Dakota, where an oil boom has put a spotlight on that state.

“Think of it,” Beaulieu said. “North Dakota now has a reason to exist.”

And he had more advice for his audience: Tune out politicians’ sound bites about the economy, he said, because most of them don’t know what they’re talking about.

Instead, pay attention to the key economic indicators that spell out what’s likely headed your way, he said. Those include changes in the U.S. money supply, retail sales data, and information about the labor market.

Turning his attention to the global economy, Beaulieu dissected the demographics and economic challenges of various countries, including the United States, Europe, Russia and China — and how they all connect.

He predicted the U.S. economy will continue to expand this year and well into 2013, although it will experience a short, mild recession in 2014. He said he doesn’t think the European debt crisis will drag down the global economy. Investors “have already written off large portions of Greek debt,” Beaulieu added. “Most of the problem has already been swallowed and digested.”

The early-morning event featuring Beaulieu was sponsored by Vancouver-based RSV Building Solutions and the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce.