Expect global manufacturing companies to start investing more in leadership training, a trend fueled by a rise in the number of retirees and increasing pressure on corporate leaders to perform and be accountable. Tom Silveri, president of New York-based DBM, an HR consulting firm, says investing in future leaders is one of several things companies can do to attract and retain key employees. His company recently surveyed HR directors across the country and found that 67% said their companies plan to moderately or aggressively invest in leadership development this year. "If a company wants to stay competitive in an increasingly competitive -- perhaps even employee-driven -- market, then an investment in leadership development would be one of the most intuitive places to start," Silveri says. Chemical and materials producer Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Mich., has already started. The company announced in January that it is teaming up with Northwood University, also in Midland, to develop a customized M.B.A. program for handpicked Dow employees. Tim Nash, dean of The Richard DeVos Graduate School of Management at Northwood, says the program will cover management and leadership, markets and competition in the global chemical industry and world economic conditions. "The program will also seek to increase participants' financial literacy, build their business acumen and equip them with complex leadership skills to enhance their contribution to Dow." Initially, 40 Dow employees will participate in the program for three to four years to complete their M.B.A.s. The program will open to employees of non-competing companies around 2005, says Frank Morgan, global director of executive education at the $33 billion company. Why not just reimburse future leaders to attend already-existing M.B.A. programs? "We do when it makes sense," Morgan says. "This program is a more relevant for our company needs, more cost effective and creates cohorts who will develop and maintain a professional and personal network throughout their careers."