In the latest issue of Talk Business Quarterly, Steve Brawner takes a look at a variety of shifting data to determine how Arkansas’ business, political and educational landscape may shift by the year 2025.
We are technically about halfway through the first quarter of the 21st century. When today’s kindergarteners graduate, what will Arkansas look like?
This May, students across Arkansas will march across a stage and receive a diploma to enter a work world that is far different than the one that existed when they entered kindergarten 13 years ago. Back then, the economy was in the midst of a long-running expansion and a stock market bubble, cell phones weren’t smart, and if you wanted to run for office in Arkansas outside of the northwest corner, you had to do it as a Democrat.
So how will the world change in 13 years for the students entering kindergarten this fall? Talk Business Quarterly interviewed Arkansans from all walks of life to get their predictions and best guesses.
A few predictions:
The 18 year olds of 2025 will be part of a population that is older than the one they were born into. According to Regional Economic Models, Inc., about 24 percent of us (803,734) will be age 65 or older in 2025, up from less than 21 percent (616,771) in 2012. That means a larger share of the economy will be oriented toward senior citizens.
The ethnic makeup of the state’s population also will change. While African Americans remain the largest minority group, Hispanics will see the largest increase, with that population expected to rise from about 200,000 in 2012 to 350,000 in 2025. Some likely will migrate from the northwest to the southeast, and in some counties they will become the largest minority group.
Textbooks as we have always known them will be nearly obsolete. Distance learning opportunities, already commonplace, will increase, and certain teachers may be able to develop national followings.
Peter Banko, president and CEO at St. Vincent’s in Little Rock, expects “massive consolidation” of hospitals within the next five years leading to the existence of two or three large health systems in Arkansas. Providers will focus only on those areas of care where they have expertise. He also expects a closer integration between payers and providers, with doctors and hospitals sharing more of the risk for bad outcomes.
Darrell Potts, owner of Lewis and Clark Outfitters, an outdoor sports-related company with retail stores in Springdale and Rogers and another soon to open in Fayetteville, said a physical location still has certain price advantages over an online seller, such as lower marketing and shipping costs and a lower rate of returns. “Retail stores are having to become more and more experiential to succeed, so the entertainment experience of retail shopping has to get better and better,” he said.
Dr. Bert Greenwalt, professor of agricultural economics at Arkansas State University College of Agriculture and Technology, said the next 13 years could be good ones for Arkansas agriculture. As the global middle class grows, worldwide demand should increase for products that Arkansas is good at raising, including protein products such as poultry and soy protein.
Meanwhile, crops grown for energy also could become more common. That includes switchgrass, which can be raised on marginal farmland.
Greenwalt said the trend of big farms getting bigger will continue, but there also may be room for producers on small farms to specialize in niche products, such as organically-grown fruits and vegetables.
You can read much more of this thought-provoking article from TBQ at this link.