“Because of him, the millennium will end in a wash of brilliant light rather than in torchlight darkness as it began.” -Life Magazine
In today’s highly charged political environment, folks like to talk about creating jobs and who is best able to do this. Thomas Edison moved to West Orange, NJ in 1886, to live and create what would become his great invention and manufacturing facility-his legendary West Orange Labs. Nothing but farmland in 1887 when construction begins, by 1905, there are over 14,000 people working there-with a full complement of buildings on 25 acres of land.
Here is the real magic of Edison, who teaches the world a powerful economic lesson-the incredible value of R&D in new product development. By 1905, there are about 250 people working in Edison’s invention factory [photo below], where 30-40 project teams are busy creating and building new products.
As Edison himself approves these prototypes for production, the other 14,000 employees then make, market, and sell the new products. That is a manpower leverage of almost 60 to 1. An R&D job is capable of creating about 60 more manufacturing jobs. This is the essence of a technology driven economy and what we have generally come to call “progress”. Last year, the U.S. spent almost $500 billion on R&D, across all economic sectors.
In 2012, the Voice of America proclaimed Thomas Edison was probably responsible for one-fourth of all the jobs on the planet. Something he achieved in his labs or patented, or an industry he created, resulted in significant jobs and economies that have come down to us today.
“Among life’s many conveniences we can take for granted, thanks in part to him [Edison]: copiers, radio, movies, TV, phones (he improved Bell’s).” –Life Magazine
Following this up, the Edison Innovation Foundation commissioned in 2015 its own economic analysis of Edison’s impact on our economy. Examining the productivity ripple effect of Edison’s major accomplishments, approximately 10% of the annual national economy, about $1.6 trillion, is directly attributable to the great inventor’s work. At an international level, this translates to about $6-7 trillion per year.
The best way to sum up Edison’s impact is to quote Life Magazine, which proclaimed Edison the “Man of the Millennium!”
Thomas Edison said, “If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves …”
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