Jobs Council Unveils Recommendations

October 13, 2011

The President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness met on Tuesday, Oct. 11 to make formal recommendations to President Barack Obama. Included in their 52-page report, “Taking Action, Building Confidence” were recommendations ranging from infrastructure spending to tax cuts, and immigration reform to foreign direct investment in the U.S.

The recommendations were grouped in six key categories: Simplify Regulatory Review and Streamline Project Approvals; A New Era for Energy;  Develop Talent to Fill Today’s Jobs and Fuel Tomorrow’s; A New Era for Infrastructure; a National Investment Initiative; and Nurture the High-Growth Enterprises that Create Jobs.

The Council is headed by General Electric Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt, and includes a total of 27 business leaders mostly representing large companies. Receiving general praise from the President, the Jobs Council report called for broad reforms on a host of issues, in some cases beyond what the administration already has pushed for through the American Jobs Act. Citing the fact that “there is no ‘silver bullet’ to create jobs,” the Council endorsed both Republican and Democratic ideologies.

Simplify Regulatory Review and Streamline Project Approvals

A key piece of several other sections, the Council dedicated a specific category to regulatory reform in which it calls for a new requirement on independent regulatory commissions to conduct cost-benefit analyses on any “economically significant” regulatory actions with an annual impact of $100 million or more. In its recommendations, it underscores transparency, stakeholder engagement, centralized monitoring, eliminating duplication and improved litigation management.

Included in this section, the Council more specifically calls for: an improved tourist visa process to boost tourism; a better, quicker FDA approval process; a streamlined patent application process; and expedited payments to small federal contractors.

A New Era for Energy

The report cites great potential growth in energy technology, and, while it shies away from offering a concrete proposal on controversial energy developments such as an oil pipeline and deep-water oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, urges lawmakers to seek a balance to these approaches that would ensure safety and economic benefits are realized.

The Council calls for streamlined permitting to accelerate the modernization and expansion of the U.S. electric grid. Other recommendations include the establishment of a government-backed financing mechanism to accelerate advanced energy technologies in the private sector.

Develop Talent to Fill Today’s Jobs and Fuel Tomorrow’s

The council highlighted the deficit of skilled workers in manufacturing, engineering and health care. To address these issues, the report calls for private-sector led training initiatives and broadened immigration rules to allow highly-skilled immigrants to come to, and stay in the U.S.

A New Era for Infrastructure

The Council report calls for spending on infrastructure improvements, citing the near-term job growth and long-term competitiveness it will promote. It calls for the creation of an infrastructure bank that would leverage private funds to support such projects, and also calls for an easing of complex federal, state and local permitting systems. The report calls for a significant increase in transportation investment coupled with a requirement to perform objective cost-benefit analysis for project selection and funding.

Other infrastructure proposals include: enable more user-generated funding for highways; a rapid implementation of a NextGen air traffic control system to ease the daily flow of travelers and goods; modernize and expand broadband services; and promote the growth of wireless and satellite-based technologies. The council also calls for a streamlined permitting and approval process for these projects that will eliminate duplication and unnecessary delays.

National Investment Initiative (NII)

Currently, the U.S. only attracts 18 percent of global direct investment—down from nearly 26 percent in the late 1990s. To remedy that, the Council proposes a new initiative to attract $1 trillion in foreign direct investment over the next five years.

The NII will: create “Innovation Investment Zones” locally for businesses; establish supply-chain partnerships between U.S. companies and the federal government to attract businesses in their supply chain to invest in the U.S.; enhance the SelectUSA program and improve coordination among states for investment promotion; improve U.S. visa policies to allow companies that invest and create here to more easily bring high-skilled workers to our shores; and work toward tax reform that will increase the competitiveness of companies that locate in the U.S.

Nurture the High-Growth Enterprises that Create New Jobs

The report urges a concerted effort to enhance entrepreneurship through a number of avenues, including immigration reforms that allow the most promising foreign-born entrepreneurs to remain in or relocate to the U.S., and eliminating capital gains taxes on investments of up to $25 million provided the investment is held for at least five years.

The report also cites reducing regulatory barriers such as modifying the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley law to let shareholders of public companies with market valuations of less than $1 billion opt out of certain compliance requirements.

To enhance small-business access to capital, the Council proposes: streamlining U.S. Small Business Administration lending programs; a full reauthorization of the SBIR/STTR programs;   enhance seed funding through a 30 percent refundable tax credit for accredited angel investors;  enhance coordination by the administration to build bridges between researchers and entrepreneurs; promote income-based student loan repayment programs for owners or employees of new, entrepreneurial companies.

Beyond the government-centered recommendations, the Council urged private sector support of startup accelerators in at least 30 cities and investments in at least 50 new incubators nationwide. They also called for mentoring programs between large companies and new entrepreneurs.

Please click here for the full report.