Bouncing Back

STODGY. Tired. Not innovative. These are criticisms one often hears directed against corporate America in this era of intense industrial and economic competition from abroad, and corporate downsizing at home. But to watch the corporate reaction to the Feb 26. bombing at New York's World Trade Center is to see quite a different story.

Some 50,000 people work there. Hundreds of companies are located within the vast complex, including several top investment houses, banks, (including some Japanese banks), a number of law firms, and five commodities exchanges.

Some of the smaller retail outlets will be financially hard hit by the blast, although small-business loans are expected to be made available. Yet most large companies have quickly relocated elsewhere temporarily, or, in the case of the commodities exchanges, reopened within the Trade Center. Throughout the weekend, employees entered smoke-damaged offices to retrieve equipment, documents, and files to be taken to new locations.

American business often has been characterized by resilience. Moreover, industry has become highly diffused in the late 20th century: Companies have offices around the globe - most linked by elaborate communications grids. The Big Apple may still host more Fortune 500 companies than any other United States city. But those businesses are no longer just New York companies. The "World" in World Trade Center is no misnomer.

A final thought: As one employee of a major enterprise in the World Trade Center said, Americans "are very tough at adapting to a tragedy such as the World Trade Center bombing." Although an explosion of this magnitude is unusual in the US, there were a number of terrorist bombings and threats in New York and elsewhere during the 1960s and '70s. Yet, companies quickly upgraded security, police patrols expanded, and New Yorkers, and Americans in general, went about their day-to-day affairs. Stodgy? Slow t o respond? No. Try flexible, resilient, and gritty.

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