By Talib I. Karim, Tech & Health Writer
For version published in the Afro American, visit:
Writer William Faulkner in a 1958 interview said, “Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” In 2012, Dean Garfield, is employing this sage wisdom to assist the nation’s top tech firms create innovations and jobs to boost the country’s economic engine.
Garfield serves as president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which represents the country’s largest tech-sector companies, including the likes of Apple, eBay, and Google. According to noted attorney David Honig, who leads the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, Garfield is achieving his mission while also prodding Silicon Valley firms to increase the diversity within their ranks.
For some, Garfield may be viewed as the tech world’s Barak Obama. Like President Obama, Garfield is a super-smart, east coast-educated lawyer, with joint advanced degrees in law and international affairs degrees from NYU and Princeton University, respectively. After school, Garfield worked as a litigator for top law firms in New York and Washington, D.C. Later, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), tapped Garfield as its vice president of Legal Affairs, where he helped shut down early online music sites such as Napster that were blamed for illegally downloading millions of sound recordings.
Garfield’s successes for the record industry caused the Motion Picture Association of America to lure Garfield from D.C. to California to serve as the group’s executive vice president and chief strategic officer. There, Garfield employed his anti-piracy expertise to challenge illegal copying of film works while directing the film industry’s efforts to better utilize internet-based technologies.
Together with his wife Chanda (a Howard alumnae and fellow lawyer) and two children, Garfield lives on the other end of 16th Street from the Obama’s, near a neighborhood known as D.C.’s “Gold Coast.”
I caught up with the busy Garfield and here’s what he had to say.
AFRO: What is the mission of ITI?
Dean Garfield: Much of what we do is to create an enabling environment through quality for our companies to be successful. We try to break down barriers that get in the way for our companies to compete effectively, or to breed new opportunities and markets for those companies. That ideally will allow companies to be more successful and create more jobs as well as continue to reshape society in ways.
AFRO: As the president kicks off his official re-election campaign; what grade would you give him for his work in creating opportunities for the tech sector?
Dean Garfield: I would say that there are areas where there’s been significant progress. Specifically, I point to his [the President’s] focus and emphasis on skilled labor, getting more people proficient and interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). I think they have built some really solid-state public-private partnerships there, the investments they’ve made in research I think will help…in the long term. There are also important areas where we didn’t see any full progress and hopefully there will still be opportunity for that to happen. The big example is mobile broadband: that’s the invisible infrastructure that allows all of us to be really and highly efficient as we travel around, whether by bus, rail or airplane. There is a dire need for more spectrum in our country. So there are identifiable successes but there are also areas that need real attention.
AFRO: The president has touted trade agreements with places like Korea as victories while unions and others view these as bad deals, particularly for workers and since they erode our manufacturing base and ship jobs outside the country. What’s your take?
Dean Garfield: My take is that we live in a world where 95% of the world’s population is outside our borders and owns 75% of the world’s earning power. So, the only way we can create a success story for U.S. businesses is to ensure they have access to those markets. If you are building glass that will go into mobile devices in Asia, then you’re not going to ship that glass from New York to Asia, you’re going to create a facility where you can manufacturer glass there in Asia. But dollars are earned from these products wind up here in the United States.
So there is no doubt in my mind that creating new markets and opening up existing markets for the US companies is in our best interest. That is not saying that there aren’t more steps that the country can take to encourage more manufacturing here in the U.S. I think that they are related but just different issues.
Afro: You represent the world’s top tech firms like Apple but who manufacture many if not most thier products outside the country. This creates an imbalance of foriegn currency reserves, which makes these countries like China wealthy. Why don’t your firms simply bring thier manufacturing facilities back to the US to give jobs to our nation’s citizens so they can purchase more of the products your firms sell, and thus grow our economy?
Dean Garfield: This is not a new phenomenon. Over the last 40 years, there has been a decline in the nation’s manufacturing sector. What are other countries, whether places like China or Singapore, doing that the US is not. There are some real things being done that the US should emulate. Most of those markets are working hard to ensure there are people with the skills necessary to fill the positions necessary to support the manufacturing sector. Most of the jobs in our sector are high-skilled. A lot of countries are investing to help develop those skills or attract people with those skills. Other countries are also creating tax politices that attract companies to create manufacturing facilities. Three, other countries are creating a regulatory enviornment that is limited. In other countries where there are regulations, they are not a maze. I think we need to figure out what steps we take to reverse that trend.
Our companies have to be responsive to share holders. They cant do something that’s not in the overall health of the companies. Yet, folk who sit at the helm of these companies are human beings who want to see this country get stronger. To the extent that they have a partner in the US government willing to work with them and take the steps that other countries are taking to attract thier investment, that sense of patrotism will always weigh in favor of this country.
What they need is a partnerships that will make those decisions a lot more easy. I would say…make it a close call. Look at the countries that are attracting US investment.and replicate that, so its a close call for CEOs. If its a close call then the overwhelming instances the US will win out because these people want to see the US do well.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.