SAS Institute CEO Jim Goodnight on Building Strong Companies -- and a More Competitive U.S. Workforce
January 05, 2011 in Knowledge@Wharton
These should be heady times for Jim Goodnight, founder and CEO of SAS Institute, a business analytics software and services firm. His North Carolina-based company bucked the economic downturn to make 2009 its third most profitable year on record - and it is currently working on cutting-edge solutions for Macy's and also for the endangered hippos in Africa.
But Goodnight, a former statistics professor who launched SAS in 1976, noted that his biggest priority these days is his concern that America isn't turning out enough new scientists and mathematicians to prevent the flow of jobs and critical research to Asia and elsewhere. "Twenty-first century employers are looking for workers who are proficient in science, technology, engineering and math, but in American schools these are not areas of great interest," Goodnight said during a lecture sponsored by a longtime SAS-partner, the Wharton Research Data Services. His talk was titled, "The Age of Analytics: Competing in the 21st Century."
According to Goodnight, because of the lack of scientists and mathematicians in the U.S., some 77% of global technology companies said in a recent survey that they are looking to open research centers in China or India. Only four of the 10 firms that are leaders in obtaining U.S. patents are actually based in the U.S. "We have to address this alarming trend," Goodnight said.
He is doing just that, taking on a complicated social issue that goes far beyond the walls of SAS and its 11,000 worldwide employees. Over the last 15 years, SAS has made improving American education the firm's main philanthropic thrust -- underwriting innovative pilot programs in its home state of North Carolina, providing thousands of high school and middle school students with laptops, and developing an online learning program free of charge for some 40,000 classrooms last year.