Economy League posits future global scenarios

June 16, 2011

David Sell, Philadelphia Inquirer



Caroline West is a senior vice president and chief compliance and risk officer with Shire, a global specialty pharmaceutical manufacturer with operations in Wayne.

West is also chair of the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, which as part of its mission, wants business and government leaders to peer into the future. To that end, it produced four scenarios for life in 2026 - a mere 15 years out - in Philadelphia and the country as a whole.


As you might guess, not all of them are rosy.


In the "Global Village" scenario, the United States is no longer a dominant superpower, developing nations boom, but life in North America and Europe holds steady.

In the "Tight Belts" scenario, the United States is no longer the world's economic leader, and the flat national economy and declining tax revenue mean relatively little investment in education and infrastructure.


In the "America in the Driver's Seat" scenario, the U.S. economy rebounds and drives international growth, fueled by newly discovered domestic energy reserves and miraculous solutions to education, health care, and infrastructure concerns.


In the "Partners in Hard Times" scenario, there are scarce world resources, struggling foreign markets, and unrest in places such as Pakistan and China, but smart public-private partnerships help the United States do more with less to keep the domestic economy afloat.


"We are not a lobbying organization nor a political organization," West said this week as the Economy League presented the scenarios. "It's an organization looking to help convene and facilitate the many wonderful groups in Philadelphia so they can actually come up with some shared priorities."


Three of the priorities, West said, would be education, infrastructure, and international connectivity.


West attended Germantown Friends School, Smith College, and the Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law. She is aware of the pressure on school district budgets and the debate about them.


"In looking at the different scenarios," West said, "one thing you take away is that education and support for education is absolutely crucial. For any success in the region and for any company like mine that relies on highly educated and highly motivated people, this is an area of tremendous interest. It's one of the reasons we became involved with the Economy League, because it has the capability and interest in looking at the future."


The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia changed its name in 2007 from the Pennsylvania Economy League - Southeastern Pa. to reflect the inclusion of New Jersey and Delaware in its work. It is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that tries to provide analysis and be a catalyst for action.


The Economy League has been hosting regional roundtable discussions to engage the community; the next is Thursday night in Cherry Hill. The schedule is at


Shire has two two divisions. One is for specialty pharmaceuticals focusing on, among other things, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and gastrointestinal disease. The other division is for human-genetic therapies, focusing on rare conditions.


Unlike many companies, Shire is adding employees. West hopes this region remains appealing, which will mean spending money on infrastructure.


"I'm not involved in those decisions [at Shire], but companies don't want to go someplace where employees can't get from Point A to Point B," West said. "Philadelphia has some real advantages in terms of location that, on a personal level, I hope we don't squander by not investing. We've got a regional-rail system that people would die for. We have a bus system. We have roads. We've just got to get them configured and maintain them."


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