Business leaders pitch ideas to Obama on job creation
President Obama on Thursday said he'd heard many "exciting ideas and proposals" from participants at a White House-sponsored jobs forum and said he hoped some could be put into action quickly.
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Thursday said he'd heard many "exciting ideas and proposals" from participants at a White House-sponsored jobs forum and said he hoped some could be put into action quickly.
Participants broke into six groups to discuss job-creation strategies. Here are summaries of the discussions in each group.
Obama said government faces a dilemma when it tries to use highway, rail, aviation and other infrastructure projects to create jobs.
The "tension," said Obama, is between projects that put people to work quickly, which tend to be upkeep and repair work, and the more "visionary" projects that require planning and time to implement but don't produce jobs as fast.
Gerard Arpey, chairman of American Airlines, made a pitch for more funding for a new air traffic control system based on GPS technology instead of World War II-era radar technology.
Tens of thousands of jobs could be produced quickly if financing were available to improve the energy efficiency of commercial buildings and millions of homes, participants said.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the impact could be immediate if the federal government could find a way to promote financing at a time when credit is scarce.
The federal government also could pave the way for thousands of jobs producing and installing solar panels in homes by offering grants to permit offices and rebate centers. The permitting process now can take as long as a year for strapped local offices, said Lynn Jurich, of SunRun Solar service company of San Francisco.
Small-business owners relayed stories of frozen or tightening credit lines and complained that in many cases they can't get credit and don't know why. They blamed a restrictive regulatory environment.
Columbia University professor Joseph Stiglitz said the U.S. needs to think more creatively to encourage bankers to lend. He suggested the U.S. follow the lead of other countries, which require banks to lend 10 percent to small businesses.
He also said the companies that get government lending should be able to show that they are creating jobs rather than use the money for speculative lending.
Barry Rand, CEO of AARP, suggested the government provide incentives for companies to bring back jobs from overseas, where he says once dirt-cheap wages have doubled or even tripled in recent years.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, urged consideration of "co-locating" training and other services for parents either after hours or on weekends in the schools where their kids learn during the day.
"This is a good model to move some things quickly," Weingarten said.
Jobs and imports
The CEOs at the conference table said corporate tax structures need to be changed so that they don't encourage U.S. companies to invest overseas.
Disney chief Bob Iger told the group it costs more to produce films in the United States because of its corporate tax structure. A film made in the United States faces 35 percent taxes on exports, while the same film in Ireland would face a 12.5 percent tax rate.
Labor leaders called for strong Buy America provisions in trade deals to protect U.S. products and workers.
Teamsters chief James P. Hoffa turned to the table repeatedly and asked the business leaders variations on the same question: "How do we make things here that can be exported?"
William McComb, CEO of retailer Liz Claiborne, said his company has struggled with the credit freeze imposed by its lenders.
"A rolling two-year payroll tax credit or exemption for net new employees could be very effective for certain parts of the business," McComb said.
Alan Blinder, a Princeton professor who was Federal Reserve vice chairman in the mid-1990s, urged the government to hire people to work on the public payroll as President Franklin Roosevelt did in the 1930s.
He said 1 million new low-wage jobs could be created to fix streets, build parks or aid public-school teachers. Blinder said another 1 million private-sector jobs could be created through a new jobs tax credit.
Detroit Mayor David Bing said his city has plenty of shovel-ready infrastructure projects, but complained that stimulus money flowing through the states is taking too long to trickle down to cities.
"We need to get the money to us on a direct basis as quick as we can," Bing said.
Surya Mohapatra, CEO of medical laboratory operator Quest Diagnostics, said the government should also spend more on long-term programs that train workers in the math- and science-oriented technology jobs of the future.
Mohapatra said he has hundreds of job openings "but I can't find the trained people."
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.