Gronbach, whose company is KGC Direct, is a demographer, futurist and generational marketing expert. He has written several books on this subject, including "The Age Curve: How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm," and "Decades of Differences: Making it Work."
Gronbach offered an optimistic message to businesses about the U.S.' place in the world and about the labor force. But you have to have a little "Demography 101."
1. More is more. If you take two similar groups of people, and one has 1,000 and the other has 500, which group will require the most food? If you make the same amount of food for both groups and the group of 500 eats less, do you assume they didn't like the food or they weren't hungry? Of course not. Yet, Gronbach said, we make this mistake in our economy every day. Which group is likely to have the most criminals? The most traffic accidents? The most old people? The most people in the military? The biggest group, of course.
What has happened in this country is we had a very large group, the Baby Boomers, followed by a relatively small group, Generation X. Now another large group, Generation Y, is coming of age, currently between 7 and 27 years old.
Gronbach compared it to a hot dog stand at a fair that has only a few customers, but can see in the distance that the parking lot is filling up with school buses. "Is the future bright for hot dog sales? he asked. Of course. "Well, the parking lot for the U.S. is filling up with school buses!"
2. Groups of people are predictable. We start out being born, we affect diapers, then bikes, then ipods, the motorcycles, then rings, cars, a mortgage, etc. Gronbach says the "heavy lifting" in any culture is roughly done from 45 to 55 years old, but after age 50, your consumption "turns off like a faucet -- that's why we have those storage places."
So, he says, "If you want to predict, the future, all you have to do is do the math."
Now, back to those different generations. Generation X, Gronbach said, did not opt for technical careers, factories, electricians, so the cost of labor went way up and mfg went offshore. Making matters worse, it was a small generation.
But Generation Y, defined as those born from 1985-2004, is another big bulge like the Baby Boom, Gronbach said. And they ARE going to tech schools. And because there are so many of them, he said, it will be an employer's market so you'll be able to hire the best and brightest.
He also predicted that much of the industry that has been off-shored to China and other countries will return to America. China, he said, has had 400 million live births prevented by their one child policy. "That's the population of the U.S. and Mexico. Do you think that's going to affect their labor force?"
In fact, he said, "China's one child only policy is the biggest demographic blunder in the history of the world."
And China's not the only country with that problem, he said. "There's going to be problems throughout Asia, throughout Europe and Eastern Europe. The best and the brightest are coming to the Americas. The Americas are going to be the center of the Earth."