In addition to his duties as Deere’s CEO, Allen serves as chair of the nonprofit Council on Competitiveness, a group composed of peer corporate CEOs, university presidents (including Purdue President Mitch Daniels), labor leaders and national laboratory directors working to set an action agenda to drive U.S. competitiveness and generate innovative public policy solutions for a more prosperous America.
“One of the council’s ongoing discussions is about how the U.S. educational system needs to change, not only at the K-12 level, but also at the university level,” Allen says. “I think we all agree that higher education needs to redefine itself, but not everyone shares the same view of what needs to change or how to change it.”
Sam Allen helps build a manger for feeding livestock during a week-long service project in India in Sept. 2011 that included about 20 other John Deere leaders. (Photo provided)
Meanwhile, Deere will continue to cultivate relationships with education and research partners in both the public and private sector that align with its needs in agriculture, engineering, business and workforce development –– whether it's in the U.S. or in developing countries like Brazil, India and China.
Purdue is fortunate to be among those partners, enjoying beneficial relationships with Deere in the Krannert School’s Dauch Center for the Management of Manufacturing Excellence and Global Supply Chain Management Initiative, as well as through various advisory groups and research centers in the colleges of Agriculture, Engineering, Technology and Science.
And while support for STEM initiatives and higher-education reform is growing, Allen says there is much more work do be done. “I applaud Mitch Daniels for what he is trying to accomplish at Purdue,” he says. “He’s right to be bold and provocative in getting people to think about higher education in new and different ways.”
Moving forward, Allen sees great opportunities for Deere and the markets it serves –– as well as great challenges –– particularly those brought on by a global population that is projected to grow by 30 percent by mid-century.
“The world adds thousands of mouths to feed and bodies to clothe and house every hour,” he says. “Another phenomenon is that people in developing markets are leaving the countryside, where farming is a way of life, and migrating to cities.”
Accompanying these massive demographic changes are growing concerns about hunger, poverty and the environment, Allen notes. But they have also brought increased demand for agricultural products, farm mechanization and the equipment needed to build a sustainable infrastructure.
“We live in an age of uncertainty, whether it’s fiscal, economic, social or political,” he says. “But I’m more certain than ever about Deere’s business and prospects for growth. All in all, we’re confident about the future.”