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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

The Villanova Connection

By Donald V. Watkins

©Copyrighted and Published on December 18, 2018

Dr. Michelle Casario is a brilliant woman with an impressive academic record on the European economy and globalization. She also shared a close personal relationship with Mr. Charles Barkley, a financial backer in my international business endeavors.

I first met Dr. Casario on the night of March 5, 2008 in Atlanta, Georgia, while having dinner with her and Charles Barkley. Montal Morton, a business associate who served as a liaison between Masada Resource Group, LLC, and several of my Watkins Pencor, LLC, economic participants, was also present. Prior to the dinner, Morton briefed me on who Dr. Casario was and her importance in Charles Barkley’s life.

Dr. Casario is a distinguished assistant professor of economics and Co-Faculty Director for The Elenore and Robert F. Moran Sr. Center for Global Leadership at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. She received a bachelor’s degree from Elizabethtown College, a master’s degree from Northeastern University, and a PhD from Northwestern University.

Dr. Casario has published articles (with Kamran Dadkhah) titled, "An Evaluation of Progress Towards Economic and Monetary Union Using Fuzzy Analysis," Journal of Policy Modeling, 20(6), 1999; in her own name titled, "Bilateral Trade Effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement," Contemporary Economic Policy, 14, 1996; (with Kamran Dadkhah) titled, "The Impact of European Integration on International Trade with the United States: A VAR Approach," Applied Economics, 1995; and in her own name titled, "European Integration: Impact on International Trade with the United States," Atlantic Economic Journal, 2(2), 1993. She specializes in import quotas, international economics, international trade, and globalization.

Aside from Dr. Casario’s close relationship with Barkley, I was very interested in learning as much as I could about the European economy from her since most of my Masada-related business plans were Euro-centric. 

Following my dinner with Dr. Casario and Barkley, I asked her to email me a copy of all four of the published articles referenced above. She sent those articles and two other impressive and helpful articles, as well.

On March 10, 2008, I sent Dr. Casario and Barkley the following email:

“Thanks for sending me your articles. I will read them on my trip to L.A. this week. I am trying to get as much information as I can on labor, productivity, market drivers and economic trends in European countries. My company, Masada Resource Group, LLC, ( develops municipal solid waste-to-ethanol facilities around the world. Europe has an increasing market demand for our CES OxyNol waste-to-ethanol technology.

During the past decade, Controlled Environmental Systems Corp., Masada's technology affiliate, filed patent applications to secure international patent protection with the Patent Cooperation Treaty and African Organization of Intellectual Property countries, nominating the U.S. Patent Office/U.S. Receiving office as the designated searching authority. Patent protection was also filed in other Paris and Non-Paris Convention Member countries. These applications resulted in the acquisition of international patents in Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eurasia, Europe, Finland, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Poland,Romania, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Vietnam. Masada renews its international patents on a market-by-market basis, based upon Masada's global deployment plans, an in-depth economic analysis of each country's market potential at renewal time, and the availability of local waste management partnerships.

Masada has been a member of the Montreux (Switzerland) Energy Roundtable ( since 2001. We use the Roundtable network of energy trading and off-take companies as our primary marketplace for marketing energy assets. Montreux Energy Roundtable founder and president Richard McKean is a former Masada OxyNol board member.”

On March 12, 2008, Dr. Casario sent the following response to my email.

“Thank you for the link to your company's website.  I must admit that prior to meeting you last week, I had no  knowledge about the conversion of solid waste to ethanol but I found  the whole conversation rather stimulating.  From an environmental standpoint, this process is tremendously appealing, not to mention the economic benefits…  After reading the information on your website regarding the waste-to-ethanol technology I could see how superior this process was compared to existing technologies that are so heavily dependent on volatile corn prices.  I find this whole issue very interesting - it is easy to see why you have such passion and enthusiasm for what you do.

With respect to your interest in labor productivity and economic trends in Europe, I have a couple of thoughts to share.  Labor productivity growth has been decreasing throughout the Eurozone (15 countries that have adopted the Euro) but has been increasing in many of the countries that have recently joined the EU (but are not yet participating in the Euro).  The data shows a pretty significant disparity of 1.4% productivity growth for the 15 members of the Eurozone in 2007 compared to 4.0% productivity growth for the new members.  I think that productivity levels are increasing among the new member states for two reasons:  First, many of the new member states are realizing the benefits of market reform and the improved allocation of productive resources.  Secondly, the technology transfer from the advanced industrialized Western European countries to the emerging Central and Eastern European countries is increasing their productivity.  It is sort of like a convergence hypothesis where emerging or developing economies can 'catch up' to more advanced economies through greater productivity growth rates (as opposed to productivity levels) simply because it is easier to adopt or imitate existing technologies rather than expend resources to develop new ones…

Another trend I find quite interesting in the EU right now is the decline in unemployment rates EU wide.  The EU has historically had much higher unemployment rates than the US.  This is due in large part to the structural and institutional labor market rigidities present throughout Europe - it is almost impossible to fire unproductive workers in Europe.  Last month, EU unemployment hit a record low of 7.1% (Eurostat has kept EU wide statistics since 1993).  So I am thinking that employment levels may have reached their peak in Europe and as such labor productivity may start to increase in the Eurozone.  This is simply a function of how labor productivity is defined in that if employment growth accelerates beyond output growth rates, then productivity falls.  Since the converse is true, a leveling of employment would increase productivity if increased demand is met with expanding output.  This would also alleviate some of the upward pressure on wages common in a tighter labor market, thereby lowering production costs…”.

After this email exchange of vital European economic and productivity information, the global economy unexpectedly collapsed. Scores of Masada’s competitors in the U.S. went out of business. Masada survived the Recession with no taxpayer “bailout” from the federal government. The key to company’s survival was its shift from a U.S. focus to an international market development strategy that commenced in November 2007 after I became CEO of Masada.

Masada’s executive team grew the company from one domestic project in upstate New York in 2007 to over 40 international in 2016. Along the way, Masada had to: (a) survive the Great Recession of 2008, which lasted through 2010, (b) retreat from Sierra Leone during the outbreak of Ebola epidemic in the country in 2014, (c) abandon market development activities in Egypt after the 2013 overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi, (d) halt market development activities in the Ukraine after Russian-backed rebels shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight over the eastern part of the country on July 17, 2014, (e) escape riots in Senegal over President Abdoulaye Wade’s bid for a third-term, and (f) abandon market development activities in Turkey after an attempted a coup d'état against state against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.  Despite these challenges, the company achieved a remarkable growth in its market penetration in record time.

Masada’s track-record for international expansion and recognition as a global industry leader earned the company the Governor’s 2015 Trade Excellence Award, among other awards. Furthermore, Goldman Sachs qualified me as a bidder for the St. Louis Rams NFL team from July 2009 to August 2010 based upon my equity interests in Masada’s constellation of assets.

In summary, Charles Barkley had a brilliant, leading world expert at his fingertips with impressive credentials on the European economy and globalization, who also just happened to share a close personal relationship with him. Dr. Casario’s brilliance contributed greatly to Masada’s international growth and to Charles Barkley’s financial backing of Masada.

PHOTO: Dr. Michelle Casario is a brilliant Villanova University professor of economics and close personal friend of Charles Barkley. Her body of professional work was instrumental in Masada's international growth and in Barkley's financial backing of the company.

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