United States Quick Facts
About the United States of America
The United States of America is the third largest country in the world, with an area of 9,826,675 sq km. With over 300 million people in a space over twice the size of the European Union, the population is less dense and less centralized than in most of Europe. Due to its size, the U.S. encompasses a wide variety of climates, from arctic in Alaska to tropical in Florida. Much of the eastern U.S. consists of temperate plains, while the west is mountainous; most major metropolitan centers are located along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Business Practices and Culture
American business culture is task-oriented and rewards timeliness and personal accomplishments. Business hierarchy is often important, with business leaders accorded respect for their success. Formal greetings typically consist of a firm handshake. Maintaining eye contact in a conversation is a sign of being open and straightforward, traits Americans value highly. Emphasis is placed on efficiency, and punctuality is important for meetings and project deadlines. Americans tend to be very warm and informal, even towards new acquaintances. First names are frequently used among coworkers and business associates. Competition is encouraged and individuals are not afraid to take pride in their achievements. Direct negotiation and frank discussion, even to voice disagreement, are commonplace. The most important factor in business is the ability to produce results. This emphasis on accomplishments means that, in order to achieve their personal goals, Americans are generally willing to work long hours and take only limited vacation time; they may expect others to do the same.
The United States is a federal republic; the federal system grants each of the 50 states the ability to form many of their own laws and regulations. Representative government dates back to the country’s founding; the U.S. constitution, on which the government is based, has been in use since 1789. Government power is balanced between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government, with the president (executive) as head of state. The current president is Barack Obama, elected in 2008 to a four-year term. The legislature is divided between the lower house, with representatives elected every two years, and the upper house, with senators elected to six-year terms. The major political parties are Democrats and Republicans.
Current Economic Challenges and Opportunities
The U.S. economy was hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis; however, the country has rebounded from the worst of the downturn. Growth has returned, aided by the strong fundamentals of the economy and pro-growth policies. The market-based practices and low regulation environment of the United States encourages flexibility and adaptation. The U.S. remains the world’s largest national economy and export market. America ranks number five on the World Economic Forum’s 2011 list of the most competitive environments for business. Home to many of the world’s top universities, the U.S. is at the technological forefront in virtually every field of business. The U.S. is looking to overcome the setbacks of the financial crisis and rein in public debt through innovation and opportunity led growth.
The National Export Initiative
President Obama unveiled a new plan to promote American exports in his January 2010 State of the Union Address. Through this National Export Initiative (NEI), as it is called, the administration hopes to see U.S. exports rise to twice their 2010 levels over the next five years, spurred on by a combination of new efforts and institutional realignments. Only 1 percent of U.S. companies currently export, but those that do are able to pay their employees 13-18% more than others. There are many competitive, innovative American companies—particularly small and medium enterprises—who have much to offer overseas buyers if they can overcome existing barriers to trade. The NEI is designed to facilitate this process, bringing American goods to world markets. Read more on Currents Online >>>
The construction market in the U.S. has faced substantial difficulties, with the housing sector being at the center of the recent financial crisis. However, increasing interest in sustainability, supported by a number of new government initiatives, is leading to an increase in green construction projects. Although in recent years the federal government has not come out with a comprehensive national program promoting efficient and environmentally sound construction, many of states have moved ahead with their own initiatives. This has created a diverse set of energy environments, some of which offer significant potential for sustainable building companies who take the time to explore these specific opportunities—which are expanding rapidly. In a 2011 report, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy observed that utility investments in energy efficiency have nearly doubled since 2008. They further noted that, while just two years ago only ten states had adopted the latest home and commercial energy standards, today twenty nine of them have such codes. The future of the U.S. construction market is increasingly green.
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