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In changing world economy, providers of education, information have great opportunities

ALBUQUERQUE - The world economy has gone from a focus on production to a focus on consumers; a billion people have moved into the middle class; and people spend more money and time on things like entertainment and their pets than ever before. Add it all up and you have a global marketplace unlike any other in world history, said Lowell Catlett, New Mexico State University dean and the keynote speaker Monday at an annual conference of communication professionals.

New Mexico State University Dean Lowell Catlett discussed future economic trends during a meeting in Albuquerque June 16-19 of communications professionals from across the U.S. and from several foreign countries. (NMSU photo by J. Victor Espinosa)

Catlett addressed more than 450 communicators who work with universities' Cooperative Extension Service programs across the country.

Dean of the College of Agriculture and Home Economics at NMSU, Catlett is in high demand as a speaker by corporate, government and industry leaders to share his insights on how changes in economics, demographics and technologies converge to shape the way people will work and live in the future.

Catlett said about a billion people in Mexico, China, India and other countries have risen over the past 10 years from poverty to the middle class. As a result, their demands as consumers have changed.

"What starts out as a luxury to one generation becomes a necessity to the next," Catlett said. As that change takes place, the birth rate drops and families spend more time and money on entertainment and even household pets. And there is more money to spend; Catlett said it is estimated that American households have $7 trillion in cash.

Another one billion people will rise to the middle class by 2012, Catlett said.

With five generations now in the workforce and a Baby Boomer generation that has no concept of retirement, demand for goods and services will continue to build and evolve. And because Baby Boomers are the most thoroughly educated generation ever, they will want to continue to learn throughout their lives, Catlett said. That presents a tremendous opportunity for providers of information and education, like the Cooperative Extension Service.

"The demand for what we do in Extension and in outreach has no bounds," Catlett said.

The Association for Communication Excellence and the National Extension Technology Conference, international organizations of communicators and information technology professionals, gathered at the Embassy Suites Albuquerque for four days of hands-on learning, networking and awards June 16-19.

ACE members are primarily writers, editors, photographers, graphic designers, videographers, electronic media producers, marketing and public relations practitioners, researchers, Web developers, database programmers, distance education specialists, educators and managers. They work in universities, government agencies and research organizations, as well as companies in the private sector.

Most NETC members work in information technology for the Cooperative Extension Service at land grant universities, but the group also includes people who simply have an interest in those areas in higher or continuing education.