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International Institute for Learning spokesman: economic picture still challenging

Friday, November 12, 2010

The world economy touches Monett through a number of locally based businesses. The International Institute for Learning (IIL) is one of the most sensitive to economic trends. According to Steve Osborn, vice president of global operations for IIL, the present economic picture remains very challenging.

"Business is pretty flat," Osborn said. "2010 is a little better with respect to the business level compared to 2009. After an awful 2009, it's been a rough ride."

IIL, with its main offices in New York City, provides training opportunities for businesses and professionals. IIL uses virtual classrooms to link trainers with employees worldwide. Manuals for specific instruction are prepared and shipped out of the Monett office.

"We're seeing signs major companies are getting stronger," Osborn said. "We're getting more contracts and RFPs (requests for proposals) than before. The volume of what we produce in Monett has picked up 20 to 30 percent in the last six months over what it was over the previous six months. We're still way under our capacity."

Businesses have continued to train employees. Osborn said in a difficult economy, companies need to improve the knowledge and skills of the people. Consequently as business ramps up, rehiring can be done slowly. Also, Osborn said European companies are required by law to put a certain percentage of their profits into training. IIL benefits from the commitment.

IIL is closely linked with the project management profession through the Project Management Institute. Many in the field have used the slower period to earn professional development units to sustain their professional credentials.

"All this activity combined doesn't make good business, just sustainable business," Osborn said. "We're still waiting for good business to come back."

The sustained nature of the current recession has led Osborn and other economic observers to reassess their idea of economic recovery.

"This is a different kind of recession than any of us have ever lived through. I strongly suspect the recovery will be much different as well," Osborn said. "The government approach to controlling the depths of the recession was totally different. This recovery could have extraordinary inflation, controllable inflation or take 10 years."

IIL conducts business in nations without trade restrictions. Osborn said every country has been impacted by the worldwide recession.

"Don't think the United States or Europe or China will recover from the recession on its own," Osborn said. "All the countries will go up together, at the pace that the slowest among us will go. This is probably the first recession what that's true."

The best business IIL has received in the past year has probably come from the financial sector. In recent months Osborn said more activity has surfaced from the manufacturing sector.

"There's signs of life out there, a pulse," Osborn said.

IIL's Monett office has not cut its staff during the downturn or sustained extended layoffs. Osborn said the operation has even increased its capacity by installing new equipment.

IIL's business model has remained largely the same through the recession. Providing instruction through the internet has grown slightly as a money saving approach. Osborn said IIL's sales staff worldwide have become good at selling the option, and companies have grown increasingly keen toward saving travel expenses.

New markets remain on the horizon but have not really emerged yet.

"We understand that alternative energy is the leading industry of tomorrow," Osborn said. "We're out there searching for the leaders of that industry."

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