Three Key Ways to Drive Job Growth

Public-private sector collaboration is a prerequisite for fixing the economy.

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Dean Garfield is president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council.

Let's be honest: There is no silver-bullet solution that will immediately stimulate job creation. The signs are everywhere that the economy's growth will be slow: stagnant 9.5 percent unemployment, looming deficits and a sense among many Americans that the worst is far from over. The road ahead will require real leadership and collaboration from the public and private sectors, but recent signs of such oneness of purpose are less apparent. This must change. The stakes are too high for our country to continue on this path of mutual destruction.

Consider the facts: The United States has not experienced robust job creation for almost a decade. In the years since the 2001 recession, the net job creation for all sectors of the economy was approximately 139,000 jobs a month—the slowest rate of growth since the 1960s. In fact, the recession that started in 2008 eliminated more private sector jobs than were created between 2001 and 2007. Changing that job growth trajectory should be our shared focus.

[Check out a roundup of editorial cartoons on the economy.]

In order to advance a pro-business, pro-Main Street agenda that helps put millions back to work, public and private sector leaders must rally around three critical and equally important measures:

First, we must acknowledge that the United States is no longer a singular super-power when it comes to competition for jobs. Stated simply, we must fight for them. Other nations—including China, Russia, Brazil and India—are either already experiencing or poised to experience significant economic growth by solidifying their economic fundamentals, developing a talented workforce, investing in infrastructure, and creating a compelling business climate. In our new interconnected world in which businesses are faced with more viable choices on where to locate their operations, the United States must step up its game and compete to create a more compelling environment.

Research and development is a perfect example. The United States has long been viewed as the principal location for high skilled employment and the related work in R&D, but France, the UK, India, China, and South Korea, are catching up by creating highly attractive R&D incentive programs.

In the face of increased competition, Congress has done the inexplicable. It has failed to extend the existing R&D credit program that everyone acknowledges is an important job creation vehicle, creating another inroad for competitors to attract high paying jobs that may otherwise be located here, exactly the opposite of what is needed now.

Second, the Obama administration and leaders in the private sector must transition our relationship from one built on access to a more solid foundation built on action. The president and his administration have worked hard to ensure that all sectors of the economy have access to his team, including the business community. Having entry points for sustained engagement is important, but there is a growing weariness of meeting to meet. Attacking policy together is as important as our position at the table. There are real near term opportunities to do just that. Advancing the Korea Free trade agreement, which gained fresh momentum at the recent G-20 Summit, will create jobs here at home, but is still not an easy sell. Let's work together to develop a plan for pushing this agreement across the finish line.

As a part of working together on tangible problems, it would be beneficial for the administration to tone down its anti-multinational rhetoric and to add a former CEO of a multi-national corporation to the president's senior staff. U.S. based multinationals are a force multiplier for economic growth. While they are less than 1 percent of all U.S. companies, they constitute 19 percent of the private sector work force, pay 25 percent of private sector wages, and partner with tens of millions of small businesses across the country. Beating up on these companies may seem like sweet sophistry but it is counter-productive and simply serves to reinforce the impression that the administration lacks real business sophistication.