Presidential Boards Lack Small-Biz Representation

March 15, 2011

In January, President Barack Obama announced the creation of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, an economic advisory group, which aimed to improve U.S. job growth and global competitiveness, including dramatically expanding American exporting.

Obama named Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric, as chair of the Council, which was replacing the Economic Recovery Advisory Board, the group created two years ago to help formulate the administration’s response to the economic crisis.

In a January 21, 2011 op-ed in The Washington Post, Immelt wrote, “My hope is that the council will be a sounding board for ideas and a catalyst for action on jobs and competitiveness. It will include small and large businesses, labor, economists and government.” He stressed that the Council would focus on manufacturing and exports, free trade, and innovation.

Given this public aspiration and that fact that small businesses are responsible for most new jobs in America; and that innovations from small-businesses are more likely to be commercialized than from large companies and small-entity patents cover more original and broader technologies than large-patenting firms, the Council would be expected to be replete with small-business representation.

This is not the case.

The Council currently is disappointingly devoid of small-business representation. Of the 26 announced members of the Council, only one clearly represents small-business: Darlene Miller, the president and CEO of Permac Industries, a precision-machining company, and a former U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Small Business Person of the Year for Minnesota. Venture capitalists offer the only other tangential small-business representation.

Labor unions are better represented. Joseph Hansen, international president of the UFCW, and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, both sit on the Council.

President’s Export Council

Small businesses fared better on the President’s Export Council. Three of the 20 current members of the Export Council are small-business owners. The Export Council also has a Small & Medium Size Business Engagement Subcommittee.

NSBA is hopeful that small-business is well represented in the eight remaining appointments, and encourages the administration to expand the small-business representation on these important advisory panels.