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Aris Melissaratos and his crystal ball

What does the future hold for the U.S. economy and how and when do we get there?

Those are $787 billion questions these days, and where better to get answers than from Aris Melissaratos, former state Secretary of Business and Economic Development and now senior advisor to the president of the Johns Hopkins University for enterprise development.

I had a chance to hear Aris discuss “the world according to Aris” at a gathering last Thursday night at the law offices of Gordon, Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger & Hollander LLC. The event was organized by the law firm and by Asti Strategic Advisors.

Never at a loss for words, the voluble Melissaratos talked about his upcoming book “Innovation, the Key to Prosperity” and gave his insights about our current economic situation. Here are some nuggets:

* The three major keys to our future are innovation, research & development and education.

* Rebuilding our infrastructure is a key component of our economic recovery and our future. “We’ve got to make the country look young again…We need to rebuild every sewer and water system in this country.”

* “We need broadband in every corner of this continent.”

* “I firmly believe that the energy future of this country is nuclear.”

* “Manufacturing jobs will continue to move around the planet” to places where labor is cheap. “I think that 10 years from now, China will be outsourcing to Africa.”

* “What is the next generation of the interstate highway system? I think it will be high-speed ground transportation, probably maglev trains, probably run by the feds…You’ll be able to go from Boston to Miami in about two hours.”

* “I think we need to lead the world based on American values…Those values have more power than the bayonet and more strength than…a missile strike.”

* The federal stimulus package: “Whether it’s pork or not, it spends dollars in the economy and spends them across the spectrum.”

* “We need innovation to create new products to solve the world’s problems and not innovation to respond to the minority’s greed.”

Oh yes, and as for when the economy will rebound–“The turnaround will probably happen in a year or year-and-a-half from now. The bottom will not be hit until we figure out what we are going to do with real estate. …We will probably see signs of a recovery by the end of this year and a slight upturn in either the first or second quarter next year.”