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US Chamber of Commerce: State of American Business

“The State of American Business is resilient,” Tom Donohue said optimistically as he kicked off the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 State of American Business virtual event. During the address, Donohue unveiled the U.S. Chamber’s 2021 Policy Priorities while outlining the path for a widespread economic recovery through a bold agenda of infrastructure investments, workforce reskilling, immigration reforms, and reinvigorating America’s global competitiveness.

The event was structured as a “Rally for Recovery” and featured multiple panels that focused on the business community’s role in strengthening democratic institutions, forging bipartisan solutions, and innovation.

Donohue did not shy away from some of the most significant challenges that the country faced while also highlighting some of the most significant success stories. “Our nation has seen it in the determination of small businesses who have kept their doors open and kept their employees on payrolls against all odds…we’ve seen it in the tireless dedication of the essential workers who have kept daily life running for all of us…and we’ve seen it in the precedent-shattering global innovation leading to the development of safe and effective vaccines, faster than anyone dreamed.”

An Uneven Recovery and 10 Million Jobs Lost

“Some industries, businesses, and segments of the workforce have thrived,” he said, noting the surging stock market, housing prices, and some companies and industries thriving amid the pandemic. “But it’s a very different story for those who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Entire industries have been decimated because people aren’t traveling, gathering, shopping, or going out like they used to.”

With 10 million American jobs lost in the last year, and small business disproportionately impacted – particularly minority- and women-owned businesses, many of which have closed – Donohue urged policymakers to focus on a broad-based economic recovery.

“We won’t restore the jobs, growth, and prosperity that were lost in 2020 until we eradicate the pandemic and get our economy firing on all cylinders,” Donohue said. “And for that to happen, our elected officials must pull all the right policy levers—and push back against misguided proposals—in 2021.”

Donohue stressed that the Chamber will work with the incoming Congress and Biden administration to ensure industries, businesses, and workers make it through the end of the pandemic economic crisis. He added that if Congress sufficiently supports the economy with additional relief, economic growth could return to pre-pandemic levels by the third quarter of this year.

“This must include all the support necessary to get the vaccines widely distributed and administered—only then can we truly move past the pandemic,” he said.

A Long-Overdue Infrastructure Package

“Our lawmakers should enact a fiscally and environmentally responsible infrastructure package that focuses on urgent needs like roads and bridges, modernizes our critical networks, and upgrades and expands technology like broadband,” Donohue said, noting that such a package is the “one way to raise productivity, create jobs, and drive up incomes in a hurry.”

“Even in a 50-50 Senate and a House divided by five votes, this can be done—and it might build some goodwill for bipartisan progress on other priorities,” he said.

Reskilling the American Workforce for the Jobs of Tomorrow

Donohue stated that a broad-based and speedy economic recovery hinges on reskilling workers and fostering inclusive growth.

“Our lawmakers should fund rapid training programs to connect the unemployed with jobs in new sectors,” he said, stressing the need for employer-led initiatives to lead the way to align industry needs and in-demand skills. “Some of the best-paying sectors—such as health care or financial and professional services—have more job openings than available workers. If we do this right and do it quickly, we will improve the living standard for millions of Americans and get our economy growing even faster.”

Addressing Racial Inequality and Reforming Immigration Policies

In addition to job reskilling, Donohue stressed that policymakers need to tackle race-based systemic inequality in education, entrepreneurship, and the criminal justice system–as outlined in the Chamber’s Equality of Opportunity Initiative–and immigration reforms to ensure the American workforce is highly skilled.

“Allowing the world’s most talented and industrious people to contribute to our economy drives growth, which in turn creates more jobs for Americans,” he said. “We fought vigorously and successfully against actions by the Trump administration to severely limit legal immigration, and we will work cooperatively with the Biden administration to reform our immigration system to meet the needs of our modern economy.”

Excessive Regulations and Anti-Competitive Taxes

“As a new government prepares to take the reins, we must prevent a return to excessive regulation or anti-competitive taxes,” Donohue warned, citing the positive effects of regulatory relief and pro-business policies on the economy before the pandemic. “Now is exactly the wrong time to further test the resiliency of businesses by hiking taxes or heaping on new regulations that do more harm than good.”

If such actions are taken, Donohue said, the Chamber would “use every tool at our disposal—including in the courts—to protect our recovery, our competitiveness, and our economic future from the regulatory overreach.”

America’s Long-Term Strength and Competitiveness Requires Global Engagement and Leadership

Finally, Donohue stressed the necessity for America to “reengage with the world through a bold trade agenda” to drive growth and prosperity. He said, “in recent years our resilience has been tested through trade wars and tariffs.”

Specifically, Donohue called for the end of the many tariffs enacted in recent years, paid for by American consumers, that have hurt farmers and manufacturers, and to reaffirm American leadership in multilateral organizations like the WTO and WHO.

After Donohue spoke there were three panels and closing remarks by U.S. Chamber Foundation President Suzanne Clark:

DISCUSSION: FORGING SOLUTIONS AND LEADING THE RECOVERY

  • Nela Richardson, Senior Vice President and Chief Economist, ADP
  • The Honorable John Katko(R), New York Congressman
  • The Honorable Abigail Spanberger(D), Virginia Congresswoman
  • Moderated by: Neil Bradley, Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

DISCUSSION: STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY AND THE ROLE OF BUSINESS

  • Marlene Colucci, Executive Director, The Business Council
  • Andrew Wilson, Executive Director, Center for International Private Enterprise
  • Moderated by: Gregori Lebedev, Chairman, Center for International Private Enterprise

DISCUSSION: INNOVATING AND ADAPTING FOR THE FUTURE

  • Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO, Uber
  • Penny Pennington, Managing Partner, Edward Jones Investments
  • Mike Roman, Chairman and CEO, 3M
  • Opening remarks and moderation by: Suzanne P. Clark, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Detroit Regional Chamber members can access resources from the U.S. Chamber including: