American Entrepreneur: The Fascinating Stories of the People Who Defined Business in the United States

By Larry Schweikart; Lynne Pierson Doti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 14
Americans and the
Global Market

A pall hung over once-hot technology regions. Silicon Valley nightclubs hosted employment parties where recently laid-off engineers and executives showed up with their resumes to “speed date” potential employers. “The 'pink slips' are falling like confetti,” observed one reporter, as 10,000 Silicon Valley workers lost their jobs in December 2000 alone.1 While the region hardly experienced the ghost town fate that befell some of the cattle towns of the 1800s, Silicon Valley nevertheless saw many of its brightest star companies lose their luster. Lucent, Cisco, Sun, Compaq (now Hewlett-Packard), and others all shuddered as their sales plummeted, stock value collapsed, and employment shrank. The Dow Jones dropped 349 points in April 2000, and the U.S. economy, drifting toward a recession, absorbed another blow with the “dot-com” bust. By the time the “bust” was over, companies had lost $750 billion in market value and 600,000 jobs.2

The American business sector, which seemed so confident and robust in the 1990s, suddenly flailed. As the Internet boom unraveled, a new threat developed.

Structural flaws in the economy, brought about by an emphasis on performance-based compensation, had produced a new type of corporate leader, obsessed with short horizons and stock value and with an

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