Technology drives productivity and growing economy

I am betting at least a few of you read one of the columns I regularly write for various industry publications, and, if you do, you know I have been on my soap box for months now about the tailwinds behind our economy, which is why we did not experience a recession as was widely expected. My articles and regular columns have been focusing on the “why” behind my outlook and the drivers behind it.

What do I see? There is a confluence of events that is apparent around us: inflation that has fallen dramatically and will continue to do so despite a pause in the first quarter of this year; the outlook for interest rate cuts in the months ahead; and the robust performance of the stock markets that is bolstering everyone’s 401(k) account – and stimulating consumer sentiment in a positive direction.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of my business career, and I have reflected on three of the seminal events of those 50 years, tectonic shifts in our economy that all stimulated productivity to new levels and changed the world around us in every conceivable way. The first was the advent of the personal computer in the 1980s, which drove us to new, previously unattainable levels of productivity. Then came the invention of the cellular telephone, which launched us even further to new heights of productivity. Originally built as car console-mounted units, then followed by the famous “bag phones,” they marked the slow and early adoption of wireless technology. But phones took yet another quantum leap forward in the 2000s with the introduction of the iPhone and all the smartphone advancements that followed. Again, productivity rose to new levels, fueling strong growth in our economy and those around the globe.

Finally, the Internet and the attendant rollout of broadband acted to connect our computers and became a platform that made our smartphones possible, ultimately turning all of music, television and movies on its ear.

Well, there is now a fourth technology leap, easily as big as those three quantum leaps that moved our economy into an ever-more modern age: artificial intelligence, or “AI.” And the impact it will have over the next several years is almost impossible to measure, as improvements and gains build on each other. Think of the flip phone of 15 years ago and how they evolved into the smartphones of today.

But let me be clear: AI today is in the bag phone era, and the promise of this evolving technology is almost impossible to fathom. It is a huge, but very quiet, positive influence on our economy and will be for years to come, offering the prospect of fueling a long stretch of economic growth as we witness the productivity gains this technology promises.

History is instructive, and, like other transformational inventions of the past several hundred years, such as the printing press, the steam engine, electricity, computing and the Internet, AI will drive our business and the precast industry to ever higher levels of productivity. For that reason alone, we predict years of prosperity for the precast industry and construction as a whole.

Pierre G. Villere serves as president and senior managing partner of Allen-Villere Partners, an investment banking firm with a national practice in the construction materials industry that specializes in mergers and acquisitions.