America has far more of the best universities in the world than any other country. Led by Harvard Business School, these universities generate the top businessmen and women of the future.
The number of students coming to America from overseas has been steadily increasing. Upon graduation, many of these students would like to work in America, but have to leave the country when their student visa expires. They become business leaders in their home country or elsewhere, instead of building American companies and helping our competitiveness. This situation simply does not make sense.
One way to approach this problem is to use the existing "Green Card through Investment" program. This longstanding program offers conditional resident status to overseas investors and their families in exchange for a million dollar investment in a new or existing company, or a $500,000 investment if done through a Regional Center offering an attractive program. The conditional visa becomes permanent if after two years it can be proven that the required number of new jobs has been created. You can learn more by Googling "Green Card through Investment."
Of course, very few new graduates have this kind of money. Initially some potential employers might fund a graduate in return for a long term employment contract, or institutional funding might be possible. However, widespread use will require new legislation to modify the program.
Personally, I am engaged in helping wealthy Chinese entrepreneurs come to America through this program. Most of them speak little or no English, so they need a partner here who speaks Mandarin. Of course there are many Chinese graduates of the business school who are bilingual, so they can do it on their own. This is a rapidly expanding business opportunity.
The increasingly integrated world economies depend on exports from the developing world and imports from the developed countries. Chinese exports to America are key.
There seems to be remarkably little understanding in Washington, D.C. of the basic fact that if the relationship with China is damaged, and trade is severely diminished, we will be heading for a major and long term world-wide recession, with consequent civil unrest in many countries. Increasing American competitiveness would not matter much in this scenario. Unfortunately, with elections coming up, the attention of many politicians is focused elsewhere.
President Nixon realized the importance of an effective relationship with China, and went to the country in 1972 with Dr. Henry Kissinger, whose recent book, On China, consistently argued the same point. Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as United States National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, has just published a book in which he stresses the importance of a sound relationship.
Yet the Obama administration is taking a hard line to China on certain issues which only serve to increase the influence of their military. We should stress the issues where we have a common interest with the Chinese. We need a negotiated agreement on their subsidized exchange rate which takes into account both the damage it is doing to American industry and their necessity to create new jobs for social stability. This would allow us to put the difficult issues on the back burner, to be approached later in a better environment.
This example illustrates my main point which is the damage done to the American economy due to lack of an organization which can effectively present the mainstream business view to the administration, the Senate and the House of Representatives. We must tackle the "K Street" problem whereby highly paid lobbyists working for individual companies or interests have managed to bring about legislation which has been most damaging to the overall economy and the national interest. They have effectively used "divide and conquer" tactics. We need a new entity to represent the centrist, mainstream views.
To this end, I am forming a small group of concerned businessmen to develop a specific proposal for Dean Nohria to consider. I have had positive reactions from some HBS faculty and from a number of businessmen. The new entity would need to be independently financed, with a dedicated staff. Anyone with interest should contact me at: email@example.com.
Robert Laidley (HBS '61) is President of Robert Laidley & Associates Incorporated, a financial services and consulting firm.