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Thinking outside the box takes me back to the summer of 1963 or 64, to my summer job working for the Texas Highway Department, in the maintenance section. I remember the old timers using summer help for the dirtiest jobs they could find. This one morning, we all starred at the assignment board in confusion because none of us knew anything about prepping a road with base material but we were being handed kerchiefs, the old timers said we would need. It was a long slow ride in those dump trucks filled with lime, all the way from our headquarters on the Hallettsville Hwy, to the upper Mission Valley work site. The road had been dug up a week before, and our job was to unload and open those 50 pound, dusty, suffocating, never ending bags of lime, and then spread that nasty material on the dug up road. We had a young fella, the old timers dubbed "The Brain" because he was a junior at Texas A&M, who suggested that we tilt the dump trucks bed, throw out the lime ever few yards or so and then use the rotating disc machine to open and grind up the bags of lime. The old timers laughed at him, telling him that they have been doing this way for 20 some odd years and its only way to do things. Not to be outdone, the next morning, we saw “The Brain" talking to our maintenance foreman. It wasn't long after that, when the Forman called everyone together to say "We're gonna give it a try." The Brain got a $25.00 reward and his picture was taken for the company magazine for his time and labor saving idea. Not to worry, the old timers still used us to pick dead animals off the highway, laughing as we threw up, and for using a prehistoric tool, they called a yo-yo to cut around fence posts before mowing. We were chased by a lot of snakes doing that job and it was no consolation to hear the old timers say that they were not lethal. They were all Cobras to me.

Who would've thought that Oklahoma would find a smarter way to attract jobs to their state by thinking outside the box? Oklahoma now ranks eighth nationally in net migration. The state has added about 600 new companies or divisions and just recently, Boeing moved 550 jobs from Long Beach California to Oklahoma City. Oklahoma is giving companies a 5% cash rebate on payrolls for creating new jobs. It's the only state in the nation offering a “cash in hand" policy. Oklahoma has added 400,000 new jobs since 1993. Last fall they doubled the payroll benefits for companies that offered average salaries of at least $94,000. That's the key, not only jobs but good paying jobs.

Many times the first thing that a company will do during bad times is, reduce wages or prematurely lay off their workforce. Germany kept their manufacturing jobs and unions and they have rebounded nicely. A good example of that is the Mott apple juice plant in Williamson, New York. Although Mott's parent company Dr. Pepper Snapple is highly profitable, they wanted to cut wages by $1.50 an hour and pushed the union for concessions. These employees were doing better than other workers in depressed areas in upstate New York, so the company wanted them to do the same job for lower compensation. This year, wages have only risen 1.7% but corporate profits have gone up by 40% according to the Economic Policy Institute. In 1914, Henry Ford was thinking outside the box when he instituted the $5.00 a day for employees in his auto plants. He knew that paying above market rate would keep the unions at bay, decreased turnovers, and it was good for business. He realized that paying his assembly line workers more, would allow them to buy cars. Right now we have a demand problem; John Maynard Keynes called it “paradox of thrift"-if everybody saves, everybody gets poorer, since a rise in savings tends to dry up demand.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is certainly thinking outside the box, in his efforts to reduce years of bureaucracy and Cold War thinking at the pentagon. Mr. Gates is working on what he calls “brass creep." He describes it as having generals' doing what colonels are perfectly capable of doing. Since 9/11 the number of generals' and admirals has grown from 969 to about 1300. Mr. Gates said it leads to large staff, since this bureaucracy has three star generals serving four star generals'. He wants to eliminate 30 layers between the secretary and a first-line officer. He also scrapped far- out missile defense schemes, the production of the F- 22 and has tried to cancel the C-17 transport aircraft. I think that next two examples from Newsweek magazine will paint a better picture of how he changed the old pentagon ways and saved lives. In 2007, Gates read a newspaper story about the Marines using a mine resistant ambush -protected vehicle known as MRAP, which had sustained 300 attacks without a single lost Marine. Mr. Gates inquired" Why is the Army not doing this?".. The response was that MRAP was not part of the Army's program because it would have to sacrifice something they were supposed to get 10 years from now. He quickly made sure the soldiers got the MRAPs. We now have 5,000 MRAPs in Afghanistan. In Iraq the doctors called the hour in which a soldier wounded in the battlefield could be saved ,if medevaced, as the "Golden Hour." Mr. Gates did not buy the two hour evacuation plan for Afghanistan because of its rough terrain. He said " Bulls..t, it's going to be the same in Afghanistan as it is for Iraq."...They soon responded with more helicopters and three new field hospitals and now Afghanistan has the "Golden Hour."

*September 20,2010 issue of Newsweek***