By Affiliate Carol Coughlin, CEO of BottomLine Growth
I was invited to attend a Business Briefing at the White House Wednesday with 34 other Baltimore Business Leaders including two of our clients. I was very flattered to be invited. Several White House officials were at the meeting, including the White House CTO and senior officials to talk about healthcare reform, access to capital and manufacturing policy. It was a wonderful opportunity to have a voice in Washington. Since so few of us were invited, I wanted to get some advice and thoughts from my “community”. So, I sent a note out to folks on the numerous LinkedIn and other groups I belong to. As usual, I received some good feedback.
Two of our clients, Ryan Sysko, CEO of WellDoc and John Kennedy, CEO of Three Dog Logistics, were among the 34 invited. I wanted to share some of the views expressed at the meeting.
On manufacturing policy, White House commitment to double exports was well received. One CEO of a growing steel products company shared a couple of key concerns. The tax codes are complex and business taxes high. Our companies are having trouble competing with the likes of Canadian based companies, for example. Unfortunately, some of the conversations about taxes are going in the opposite direction- tax businesses more. Increased taxes will not stimulate the economy or create jobs!
Interestingly, a handful of the business leaders from growing companies in the room were having some issues hiring people. What?? Isn’t our unemployment over 9%? The leaders gave examples of candidates who turned down job offers to unemployed workers who said they were paid more not to work. This is definitely an unintended consequence of extended unemployment benefits. Some had expressed concerns about the lack of highly skilled labor. My thought is why not allocate some of the funds from extending unemployment into job training programs for targeted areas?
Healthcare reform provoked some good conversations. About the fact that there are too few primary care doctors that have lousy reimbursement. About some wonderful alternatives to traditional medicine such as telemedicine that have proven to improve clinical outcomes that are not reimbursed by insurances. And about how increasing access to care will not necessarily result in the reduction of escalating healthcare costs.
The topic of Innovation was lead by the White House CTO, and was very interesting. There are a number of programs established to increase innovation. Trouble is, they are not well known or understood. The White House has plans to make these more “user friendly” to understand and access.
Access to Capital received a lot of airtime. I have a lot of interest in this topic because I work with a number of clients where access to capital is a challenge. I am also a Director of a community bank. In fact, there are a number of SBA programs for businesses, but the SBA fees have increased tremendously. A few years ago, these fees were waived. This can be a barrier when the cost to get a loan is so excessive. It would be a good move for the SBA to waive these fees once again, and increase the guarantees on the loans. Also, we are in a region where tech companies flourish. These types of companies with intangible assets (intellectual property) rather than hard assets find it very difficult to have the collateral needed to obtain conventional loans. Perhaps some special loan programs can be developed for innovative companies.
I’m certain that these discussions will continue but it was a great opportunity to express our views and be heard.