Posted on Wednesday, March 16, 2011
President Obama yesterday led the first session of a new Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, seeking input from top U.S. business and union leaders about potential strategies for boosting private-sector employment and promoting American businesses.
The new advisory body includes AOL co-founder Steve Case (who is already Obama’s “start-up czar” and chairman of the Startup America entrepreneurial program), Intel CEO Paul Otellini, representatives from Facebook, Comcast, Kodak and Xerox, as well as Roundtable member Penny Pritzker (Pritzker Realty, L.P.).
Several members of the new group also participated in the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board (PERAB), which operated from 2009 to early 2011 under the chairmanship of former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker. (Chicago Sun Times) (Washington Post, Feb. 24).
“I am proud that such experienced and committed individuals have agreed to serve the American people in these important roles,” the president stated. “We still have a long way to go, and my number one priority is to ensure we are doing everything we can to get the American people back to work. As we enter a new phase in our recovery, I have asked the new Council to focus its work on finding new ways to encourage the private sector to hire and invest in American competitiveness.”
The Real Estate Roundtable welcomes the Administration’s heightened focus on accelerating U.S. job creation, as this is essential to fostering a broad, self-sustaining macroeconomic recovery as well as a broader recovery in commercial real estate markets.
As The Roundtable stated in a letter to all members of Congress yesterday — accompanying its newly released 2011 Policy Agenda: “Despite positive signs of stabilization in this sector after a debilitating credit crunch, plunging property values and shrinking business demand for space, our industry remains vulnerable to economic, regulatory and market-specific risks and challenges — the biggest of which is lackluster job creation.”
Focus on Jobs: A Policy Agenda for Sustainable Economic Growth offers an array of policy recommendations for unleashing U.S. job creation and innovation, and improving U.S. global competitiveness.
A Wall Street Journal report on Wednesday offered anecdotal signs that commercial real estate “has entered recovery mode — at least in the nation’s largest and healthiest markets.” A Roundtable survey released Feb. 1 underscored this “bifurcation” in the commercial real estate recovery thus far — one in which urban “gateway cities” have come back strong, while smaller, more mainstream markets continue to struggle with access to capital and weak fundamentals.
CEA Report on Economy: “Movement in the Right Direction”
A White House report to Congress this week on the state of the U.S. economy and the Administration’s plans for boosting economic growth concluded that a recovery is taking hold and there is “movement in the right direction.”
While noting the need to speed up economic growth — and “multiple pressures” such as continued weakness in the housing market and depleted local budgets — the report concludes, “Growth has resumed, jobs are returning and unemployment is falling” (Bloomberg/BusinessWeek, Feb. 23).
Picking up on his State of the Union theme of “winning the future,” President Obama (in his section of the report), stated, “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business.” The report puts a fresh emphasis on federal policies affecting small businesses — typically the major source of job creation in the U.S.
The accompanying annual report by the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) cites tax policy, credit policy, and public investments (in innovation, education and research) as factors that will accelerate economic growth. Boosting exports — and encouraging energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings — are also important elements in the Administration’s economic recovery plan.
The President’s Better Buildings Initiative, unveiled on Feb. 3 as part of the Administration’s FY2012 budget plan and discussed again in this week’s CEA report, includes numerous provisions supported by The Real Estate Roundtable. These provisions, particularly those concerning tax incentives and loan guarantees, reflect recommendations developed over many months by The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC). [Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 4]
The CEA report also discusses the state of bank lending to small businesses, echoing issues raised in Roundtable testimony before the Senate Small Business Committee in November 2010.
A separate report this week by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) offered a similar assessment, saying that although most big banks have recovered (thanks to federal assistance and record-low borrowing rates), many smaller banks continue to struggle.
The number of banks on the FDIC’s confidential “problem” list rose to 884 in the last quarter of 2010 — up from 860 in the previous quarter, The Washington Post reported Feb. 23.