Participating in CONCIBE 2007 was a memorable experience. The warmth and appreciation of the people of the University of Guadalajara was unequalled in my experience. I also had time to visit one of the major electronic assemblers to give a workshop and tour their facility.
It has been five years since I have been in Guadalajara, and I was happy to see that much of the business has returned, that left for Asia in the early 2000s. Their new airport is delightful!
In addition to three other talks, I was invited to give the "Keynote Speech" a first for me, I think. My topic was, "The State of the Electronics Industry." In this talk I discussed the future of electronics in the Americas. My perspective was one of optimism, coaxed and caressed* by the false pessimism of yesterday. I was one of the many in the 1980s that thought the Japanese were going to "beat" us (whatever that means), I then worried about the four Tigers (Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea) and for awhile a few years ago the Chinese.
Admittedly there is evidence to suggest concern. The PWB industry has all but left the Americas and Europe and large volume electronics assembly is not often performed in the US. But I argued that capitalism is prevailing, countries are performing the services that they do best and it just so happens that most of the electronics jobs in the Americas are the highest "value add," such as marketing, design, low volume, high skilled electronic assembly and semiconductor fab. I pointed out that the Americas are best at producing microprocessors, software, media (movies, entertainment) and food. Not bad things to be best at.
In the spirited discussion that follows, someone asked me, "Are you saying the Japanese are no good?" "No," I answered. What I was saying is that if we are creative and hardworking there has never been such a time of opportunity and if we strive to continuously improve ourselves we can always be very competitive. This is the same message that I share with my students at Dartmouth……in a sense the good news is that the bad news is wrong!
*the phrase "coaxed and caressed" is borrowed from General Douglas MacArthur's farewell address to the Corp of Cadets at West Point.