Every June, innovators, policymakers, academics, business and nonprofit leaders, advocates, artists, and journalists descend upon Aspen, Colorado, for an exchange and dialogue about issues and ideas that are shaping our lives and challenging us. Founded in 2005, the Aspen Ideas Festival is a week of programs and discussions dedicated to advancing and improving society. For more than 70 years, the Aspen Institute has been focused on addressing the most critical challenges facing the United States and the world and this event is part of that effort.
I had the good fortune of attending this year’s festival from June 24-30, and here are five key takeaways from it for Main Streets across America.
1. Rebuilding Trust is Key – Start with Small Business: Trust in American institutions was eroding before Covid-19 and the pandemic exacerbated the decline. Rebuilding Americans’ confidence in institutions is critical to a thriving economy and democracy. Small businesses can play a critical role in rebuilding this trust. This week, Gallup’s survey on trust found that small businesses are one of the most trusted institutions in the United States.
2. Entrepreneurship and Business Leadership is Needed to Solve Problems: Throughout our country’s history, entrepreneurs and business leaders have provided solutions to our greatest problems. From the airplane to World War II’s duck boats to the Covid-19 vaccines, business has been at the forefront of addressing these challenges. With the problems of today and the future being so complex, we need new approaches to solutions to meet them head on and more entrepreneurs and business leaders can help make that happen.
3. We Must Think About the Future of Work – and the Future of Wealth: Many of us were sitting at the festival when the Supreme Court handed down the decision striking down affirmative action at colleges and universities. While the repercussions of this decision are still being fully understood, there is agreement from experts that a diverse economy is key to our country’s growth. The Aspen Financial Security Program released the Future of Wealth report that encourages us to measure our success by the balance sheet of American families.
4. Be Skeptical, but Excited About AI: Science fiction movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Terminatorseries have been telling horror stories about artificial intelligence (AI) for decades so the wariness that we are seeing to the proliferation of AI today is not surprising. However, the conversations on generative AI discussion provided optimism that AI can enhance the work of businesses and their workers instead of replacing them. We need to be skeptical, but for now, let’s consider how we can lean into allowing AI to generate more innovation, growth, and expansion.
5. A Great American Comeback is Possible: We do have lots of challenges, but recent efforts by the Biden administration, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, American Rescue Plan, and Inflation Reduction Act, are spurring a renaissance for the American worker and business. The vast majority of these investments are focused on growing the economy from the middle out and bottom up, and these policies are ones that enable the private sector to grow. These investments strengthen America for economic prosperity and global competitiveness.
This article was originally published by Forbes.