Wall Street and Capitol Hill are in different cities, but where dialog on major economic issues is concerned, they might as well be on different continents. Many corporate executives suspect that policy makers do not understand business. And government officials, for their part, often view business people as being short-sighted and more concerned with profits than the pressures of public policy.
To bridge this gap between New York City and Washington, D.C., the Wharton School — located appropriately midway in Philadelphia — recently launched the Wharton Public Policy Initiative. On March 7, the Initiative hosted its first major event, the Wharton Economic Summit, in New York City. “Our goal was to bring together business leaders and policy makers and talk about major sectors of the economy,” says Mark Duggan, faculty director of the Wharton Public Policy Initiative. “We wanted to shine a light on a path forward for the U.S. economy that will be important for future growth.” Marc Rowan, co-founder of Apollo Global Management and chair of the Summit, adds: “Think tanks are funded by the left or the right. We are an independent party, and we want to show that business can be a resource for policy makers.”
In this special report, Knowledge at Wharton covers themes from the Wharton Economic Summit, which opened with a discussion on leadership between GE CEO Jeff Immelt and Michael Useem, director of Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management. Other articles — based on sessions at the summit — deal with health care, innovation, real estate and energy. “We are at an inflection point,” says Rowan. “We need a forum for airing important economic issues.”
GE CEO Jeff Immelt runs a $240-billion company that operates in 160 countries. He recently sat down for a candid discussion about leadership with Wharton management professor Michael Useem at the Wharton Economic Summit 2013 in New York City. Their conversation covered themes such as competitive advantage, global risk management, public policy, mentorship, growth strategies and even the toughest decision of Immelt’s professional career.
There’s cause for optimism about the future of health care, according to panelists who discussed the topic at the Wharton Economic Summit 2013. While the panelists agreed on the enormity of the challenges posed by rising health care costs, increased demand and the need to rein in spending while still being patient-centric, all believed that the outlook for health care would be better by the end of the decade.
While most people would agree that they are in favor of innovation, providing a succinct definition or example of it is a tougher question, noted participants in a panel on the topic at the Wharton Economic Summit 2013. In addition to offering their personal definitions of truly game-changing discoveries, panelists also discussed the role of the government and the U.S. education system in fostering a new generation of entrepreneurs and innovators.
Housing demand in the U.S. is back, fueled by low interest rates and government subsidies. But a sustained recovery depends on legislative reforms to improve housing supply and encourage builders. Reforms will take time, but meanwhile investors have found new business niches in single-family home rentals and in buying distressed assets worldwide. Eventually, the American dream of home ownership will shore up the industry’s fortunes, according to panelists at the Wharton Economic Summit 2013.
In the next year or two, there will be such a large surplus of natural gas and crude oil in the U.S. that the country won’t “know what to do with it,” said Anas Alhajji, chief economist at NGP Energy Capital Management, at the Wharton Economic Summit 2013. But John Deutch, former head of the CIA, pointed out that unconventional oil and gas production “involves very serious environmental impacts on air quality, water quality, community and land use.” He added that there is also “a climate issue out there that is going to hit this world.”