SOU workshop offers hope in down economy

In the heart of an economic downturn, John Bowling sees an opportunity to reinvent the way we do business. The Southern Oregon University professor and director of Pacific Retirement Services believes 2009 may be a watershed year for jobs in Southern Oregon and Northern California.

Bowling spoke Wednesday night in the presentation hall of the joint Rogue Community College-SOU Higher Education Center in Medford on the shifting economic tides and why being hopeful for the future may not be such a bad idea after all.

It is unlikely that the economic landscape will ever look quite the same as it did in the past, but this is not necessarily a bad thing, Bowling believes. Economic trends are changing, and while many old areas of employment are disappearing, new ones are sprouting up to replace them, he said.

Bowling and his colleagues from the SOU School of Business focused their talk on the three major markets which they believe have the potential for phenomenal growth in the years to come: aging services, the non-profit sector and sustainable business.

Aging services no longer encompasses the small sphere it did in the past. And many innovative entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the "age wave" which is poised to crash as a generation of baby boomers heads into later life. "Soon," says Bowling, "one in five Americans will be 65 or older."

This creates amazing potential for new business models to emerge, and with them new jobs, he believes.

"When most people think of aging services they think of assisted living facilities, but the market is no longer that narrow," he said.

Companies like EmLive and DineWise both offer unique services geared toward an aging demographic which is "healthier and more active than ever."

Professor John Laughlin discussed the non-profit sector which is rapidly expanding, with numbers in Oregon increasing by 55 percent over the past decade. According to Laughlin, management of non-profits is slated to remain a prominent field which will only continue to grow into the foreseeable future thanks to increases in federal spending and the bolstered number of those in need of the goods and services they provide.

Steve Schein, a senior instructor at SOU, discussed sustainability and sustainable leadership. According to Schein, sustainability is the next frontier of economic growth.

"In the eighties it was the personal computer, in the nineties the internet, but green is the next big wave," he said.

"Green" refers not only to sustainable buildings and renewable energy sources, but also to waste reduction, localization, community finance, and business practices and models which use resources responsibly and focus on the future. In order to make economic progress in a beneficial and conscientious manner it will be necessary to reexamine the relationship between people, profit, and the environment according to Schein.

SOU has implemented certificates for all three of the fields discussed which can be pursued alone or in conjunction with a undergraduate or graduate degree. For more information regarding these programs visit the SOU School of Business Web site at

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