Innovation in the Old Economy?

The statistics are stark according to Forbes magazine the US is losing 50,000 manufacturing jobs per month, over 42,000 factories have closed down since 1999 and some 44 million Americans rely on food stamps.  I have driven through towns like Dayton Ohio, block after block of boarded up buildings, ghost towns where once there were families and businesses. 

The panacea for this we are told will be found in new industries, like healthcare, or in the information and services industries. Maybe, but as I discovered recently, there is a need for products in the Old Economy, and there is a need for innovation.  About two months ago, I traveled out to the Naval Base at Patuxent River, Maryland to produce some marketing materials for a new solvent. That may not sound exciting, but the industrial solvent market is worth 5 billion dollars. This new product called “Navsolve” is a “Green Solvent”,  you can find out more at . Government health and environmental  requirements here in the US and Europe require replacing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) with other more friendly green solvents.  This is not just some fad, the growing world demand for oil, legislation to combat pollution and other concerns means that sooner or later more and more of the products we use will have to come from new sources of innovation.  This is not a process that began with the present administration, I was once a paint chemist, and I remember when organic solvents like xylene, turpentine were replaced by water in household paints, what are now the familiar latex paints sold at Home Depot.

This brings me back to the stark figures of manufacturing jobs being lost, people are still going to use the household products like cleaners, greases, lubricants, varnish removers, etc but those products will have to be replaced with innovative new ones.  So while pundits and economists wax eloquently about the new economy, I have been wondering about who will make the next “green” WD40, who is going to manufacture the conversion kits for biodiesel and the stainless steel piping needed to use methanol and so on here in the US.  I am wondering  who will seize the opportunity and how long it will be until those crumbling factories are being refurbished and those homes renovated.

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Peter DoylePeter Doyle is an award winning media marketing, news and documentary producer using rich media to accelerate innovation and commercialization. Check me out at

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