The abundance of intellectual capital in Massachusetts provides a wellspring of innovation for companies ranging from biotechnology startups to manufacturing enterprises to professional sports teams, Jonathan Kraft told the AIM Annual Meeting Friday.
Kraft, best known as president of the New England Patriots but who also oversees business interests in manufacturing, real estate and investing, said his family has never been more optimistic about the prospects for the Massachusetts economy. The reason, he said, is that advances in communications, computing, information storage and global infrastructure have placed a premium on ideas rather than capital.
“I think these … changes together have said to people who want to innovate that anything is possible. You don’t need capital; you just need a good idea. And if you just need a good idea it goes by definition that the economies are going to develop in places that have the most intellectual capital. And Massachusetts has more intellectual capital per capita by far than any other place in the world,” said Kraft, who spoke to more than 570 business executives at the 99th AIM Annual Meeting.
Educational institutions such as Harvard and MIT, along with renowned medical centers such as Massachusetts General Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Center make Massachusetts the worldwide epicenter of ideas that benefit businesses of all types, said Kraft, who spends 40 percent of his time on manufacturing corrugated boxes and linerboard.
It’s a business the family considered selling 15 years ago in the face of high labor and energy costs, but now happily retains because of productivity improvements made possible by smart phones and other technology.
“Even if we are not in the life sciences, our businesses benefit. When there is economic activity, there are multiplier effects and the whole economy gets lifted,” he told the audience.
“The only real difference between us and those rust-belt communities that have not come back, those areas in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Detroit - the only difference is that we have all that intellectual capital sitting at those schools and universities that that is what is driving our economy and that is a huge advantage.”
Kraft credited the administration of Governor Deval Patrick with encouraging the innovation economy by creating a $1 billion life sciences initiative and by resisting the practice of other administrations to heap burdensome regulation on business.
The Kraft Group has worked hard to integrate innovation and new ideas into all of its business. Kraft said that customers of the family’s Rand Whitney paper and packaging manufacturing business now place orders and manage their accounts wirelessly.
Technology is also playing a role with the Patriots as the owners work to ensure that fans will continue to come to Gillette Stadium to attend games. The team has installed wireless Internet at the stadium, allowing fans to watch replays of sequences, check lines at the concessions and even locate rest rooms.