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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Mar. 30, 201112:00 PM EST

UNF dean says industry drivers will lead Jacksonville growth


by Karen Brune Mathis

Managing Editor

University of North Florida Business College Dean Ajay Samant sees four industries as “the drivers” for business growth in Jacksonville.

Samant, dean of the UNF Coggin College of Business since July, told the Kiwanis Club of Jacksonville Monday that those four areas are:

• Transportation and logistics

• Medical services

• Financial services

• Military services

“If we are to make this community as a whole more prosperous, those are the industries that will help us,” Samant said at the club’s lunch meeting at the Crowne Plaza on the Downtown Southbank.

Samant explained that Jacksonville’s port is the westernmost harbor on the East Coast, allowing goods to reach a large area of the country by rail and truck within 24 hours.

He also said the port has growth potential from the expansion of the Panama Canal, which will allow larger ships to reach the East Coast from Asia.

Samant said Jacksonville is also a medical services center. “I expect medical services to grow more and more,” he said.

However, Samant said that many financial services jobs are moving to North Carolina and that Northeast Florida must find ways to attract more of them to the area.

He also noted the area’s large military presence and the impact of an aircraft carrier. A nuclear-powered aircraft carrier is planned to be stationed at Mayport Naval Station.

As for transportation and logistics, Samant said that the college’s Transportation and Logistics Program is a flagship program at UNF and that more than 80 percent of the students who graduate from it stay in the community.

Samant led his presentation with the global, U.S. and Florida business environment.

Globally, he said Brazil, Russia, India and China have grown rapidly in the past decade and “we expect more” growth.

He said heavily industrialized and indebted countries have stagnated the past five years.

Because of that, he said the flow of goods has been from eastern countries to the west, while the financial flow to pay for those goods has been from western countries to the east.

Samant also provided a lesson in “factor price equalization,” meaning that the price of labor in China and India will rise and catch up with the west while the price of labor in Europe and North America will fall to meet the eastern wage rates.

That can affect where labor is employed and at what rates.

He said that in addition, “we will see ‘factor intensity reversal,’ meaning that industrial production in the future will be more capital intensive in the east, and more knowledge intensive in the west.”

Samant said Japan has suffered “a triple tragedy” with the earthquake, which resulted in the tsunami and damaged nuclear reactors.

He called the damage “a colossal human tragedy.”

Japan is a major supplier of electronic components around the world, he said, and the results will be “a phenomenon that needs to be watched.”

In the United States, Samant said that unemployment has declined to below 9 percent, but remains “unacceptably high.”

The high federal fiscal deficit could result in higher corporate and personal income tax rates to cover the deficit, while the deficit also puts pressure on interest rates to rise.

He said companies are keeping large cash reserves, which they hesitate to spend because of a lack of confidence.

The Federal Reserve faces the “twin nightmares” of inflation without growth and a recovery without jobs.

As for Florida, Samant said tourism revenues are down and property values are down, putting pressure on property taxes to generate enough revenue to maintain the current level of public services.

Samant also talked about the college and its flagship programs in transportation and logistics and in international business.

He said the college also was working on creating the Center for Sustainable Business Practices “to serve as a clearinghouse for ideas on incorporating environmental friendliness, social responsibility and economic viability into corporate strategy.”

In an interview published in September in the Daily Record, Samant said he wanted to connect UNF business college graduates to the community and the students to the world. The college’s International Business program is a flagship program.

UNF selects flagship programs based on their potential to bring national prominence to the university and each flagship receives additional funding to bolster its program.

According to UNF, university programs must submit information to a review committee, which determines the programs to recommend for flagship status.

The Flagship Selection Committee recommends the status to the provost, who then recommends it to the president, who has final say, according to UNF.

Samant became dean, as well as a professor of finance, on July 1. He spent 18 years at the Western Michigan University Haworth College of Business in Kalamazoo.

There, he joined as an assistant professor of finance and rose to become chair of the Department of Finance and Commercial Law, then served as associate dean and interim dean.

Samant said about 70 percent of the graduates of the Coggin College of Business stay in Jacksonville after graduation. “That is a very high percentage when you look at universities across the country,” he said.

“Given that so many of our graduates choose to remain in the Jacksonville area, I think my first, most important duty is to maintain the quality of education and take it a notch further.”

Samant said the college offers “what we call transformational opportunities.”

“We have many students here who have never been out of the state of Florida,” he said, and the transformational opportunity would be the ability to study abroad.

Samant earned a bachelor’s degree in statistics and a master’s in economics at the University of Bombay, now called the University of Mumbai, in India and earned his doctorate at Indiana University Bloomington.

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