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By Kristen Wright, Managing EditorTwo topics dominated education sessions during the 2016 PEI Convention at the NACS Show in Atlanta: the economy and leadership. (Find speakers' slides here.) Meanwhile on the trade show floor, exhibitors, attendees and regulators steered conversations toward tangible solutions, most notably EMV compliance and safety and corrosion research associated with ultralow sulfur diesel storage.  The EconomyPEI speaker Brian Beaulieu addressed concerns about Nov. 8, the day the U.S. will elect its 45th president: former Secretary of State and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton or billionaire Donald Trump. “No matter who the next president is, it’s not worth slitting your wrists for,” said Beaulieu, CEO of ITR Economics and chief economist for Vistage International, a global organization of more than 14,000 CEOs. “The economy will grow no matter who the next president is — at least in 2017 and 2018,” he said.Beaulieu said he expects 2017 will be a better year for U.S. businesses than 2016.“Seventeen and ’18 look good,” he said.As long as 150,000 jobs are created each month in the U.S., the U.S. economy is OK, Beaulieu said. Also, the U.S. no longer has a vested interest in the Middle East, Beaulieu said, and U.S. dependence on foreign oil is declining. In 2005, he said, the U.S. imported 60.4 percent of its oil. In 2015, that number fell to 24 percent.The first time Beaulieu expects the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) to slip will be during the first half of 2019, he said.“How many of you are 42 or younger?” Beaulieu asked the audience. “I’ve got news for you: It’s going to suck for you.”He said that 2022 “could be nasty,” although it’s too far away to give definitive numbers. Nevertheless, the dips will not be as bad as those in 2008.“All we need is 2 percent growth, and we’re happy,” he said.Beaulieu shared predictions and tips for making the most of economic opportunities:“Specialty stores are the future.”Business opportunities abound in Mexico. “I’m very bullish on Mexico.”“If you have adult children living with you, kick them out.” The economy is good enough that young adults can do well out on their own, he said.If the U.S. stock market tanks upon a Trump election, buy. “Play the demographics, play the economics, and you can’t lose,” he said.The U.S. housing market looks good, so “buy more real estate.” Beaulieu said to buy in urban areas near water with great views.Listen to Millennials, those employees or potential employees born roughly between 1980 and 1999. Although they might not know business, Millennials know systems and processes. “Man, are they smart,” he said. “They won’t work long, but they do work hard.”Plan to be debt-free by 2030.Beaulieu said the U.S. economy looks good in the long term, but the period from 2030 to 2040 concerns him. Possible depression drivers include U.S. demographics, inflation, health care costs and other entitlements, plus the U.S. national debt.Although the U.S. has fewer functioning factories than in the past, what matters is throughput in manufacturing. Beaulieu said the U.S. will remain No. 1 in world GDP for the next 50 years — and probably the next 100 years.“We’re (the U.S.) the economic Marines of this world,” he said.PEI General Manager Rick Long echoed Beaulieu’s predictions and provided specific industry data to show trends during the PEI Membership Breakfast and Meeting.“The state of our country is strong no matter what is going on, and the same is true with PEI,” Long said.He shared results of the most recent PEI member survey that asked petroleum equipment distributors and manufacturers what was going well and what was not. Distributors said the top two things going well are EMV (25.4 percent) and construction (16.9 percent). The most disappointing thing for distributors is a technician shortage (20.1 percent).Manufacturers said the top two things going well are innovation (24 percent) and international sales (12 percent). Most disappointing for manufacturers is domestic sales (16.7 percent).Long will replace outgoing PEI Executive Vice President Robert “Bob” Renkes when Renkes retires from PEI on May 31, 2017.  Leadership“Just because you’re in the position of leader does not make you a great leader,” said Randy Disharoon, a nuclear engineer and distribution and manufacturing expert who asserts that leaders are not born; they are built.He shared four phases of leadership development: build within, build around, build up and build out. Among his tips are:Let your team drive. You be the guide.“If you’re not willing to do the least amount of work, you will not be followed.”Be replaceable, or you’ll hold back your team and yourself. A leader’s No. 1 job is to find his or her replacement.“Leaders get back what they emulate and what they tolerate.”As far as weaknesses, “If you can identify your blind spots and then improve, your effectiveness will grow 20-fold.”International business guru Troy Hazard shared leadership tips, as well, during the PEI General Session on how to future-proof a business.“Here’s what I’ve learned,” Hazard said. “I’ve learned that leadership is a science.”Hazard said that he made a couple of bad business decisions during his career.“I wasn’t creating time to create strategy,” he said. “And I wasn’t tapping into that peer network.”Hazard advises leaders to find 30 minutes each day to create strategy, even if that is only to plan that day, he said.“If you want to get fit, you go to the gym 30 minutes a day,” he said.An event unrelated to business helped Hazard find focus. He was on the race track, and his coach told him he was avoiding the accident instead of being focused on the strategy of winning the race, Hazard said.“That’s what happens in business,” he said. Upcoming PEI ConventionsThe dates have been set for the next three PEI Conventions at the NACS Show: Oct. 17-20, 2017, at McCormick Place in Chicago; Oct. 7-10, 2018, at the Las Vegas Convention Center; and Oct. 1-4, 2019, at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. 
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