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Jim Clifton

Special for the Civic Association: Dian Vujovich

Jobs. In this economy that little four-letter word is on everyone’s mind whether they are retired, working, or seeking employment.  But where new jobs will come from is a question few have answers to. That is, unless you are Jim Clifton.

Mr. Clifton, Gallup chairman and CEO, kicked off the first collaborative lecture series of the Palm Beach Civic Association and The Society of the Four Arts, Oct. 24.

He told the audience of 150 that solving the problem of future job creation depends less on innovations and inventions than it does on product models and customers.

“The problem when all you follow is innovation and invention is that no jobs come out of that at all until somebody creates a business model and has customers. That’s when you create new jobs,” says Mr. Clifton, author of The Coming Jobs War.

So while research and development are necessary elements for any business model, Mr. Clifton thinks identifying up-and-coming entrepreneurs offers the best opportunity for job creation and growth.

“We are really good at picking out the people with high IQs and the ability to read, recall, and reason, but we have not found a good way of measuring quality entrepreneurship,” says Mr. Clifton, who has been at Gallup’s helm for 26 years.

Clearly, the challenge in spotting tomorrow’s entrepreneurs today may be daunting, but it was refreshing to learn that what makes a potential entrepreneur doesn’t have the boundaries one might expect.

Mr. Clifton explains: “Five in 1,000 (students) in high school have the qualities and there are 15 million people in high school today. So that means there are potentially 75,000 exceptional entrepreneurs among that group.”

One of those students might one day become a Wayne Huizenga, Ted Turner or Meg Ryan, whose businesses have put hundreds of thousands to work.

Even better, history has shown that when it comes to entrepreneurs, there are no barriers to entry relating to gender, age or race.

More On Jobs

If it’s global peace and prosperity that we as a nation are seeking, Mr. Clifton says the best way to accomplish that is by putting people to work. “Jobs create dignity, purpose and hope. “

But, it isn’t easy finding the accurate job-related statistics needed to help create a more prosperous working environment.

Mr. Clifton’s Gallup organization has its home in Washington, DC, and as such is no stranger to the political climate. “With special interest groups in Washington, it’s hard to look at the numbers and find the truth.”

One example: GDP numbers show the economy growing at 1.4 percent, which Mr. Clifton says is true.  But while GDP has been increasing recently, a look back shows that it’s considerably lower than it was.

On unemployment, even with the current unemployment rate of 5.9 percent, the workforce now has fewer full-time workers than ever.

Mr. Clifton defined full employment as working 30 hours or more a week for an organization with consistent pay.

“What percentage of adults in America have that?” he asked the audience. “Forty-three percent. The lowest in 40 years.”

With any luck at all there’s a blossoming entrepreneur—or two– in your family.  We need all of them that we can find.