innovation-eagle-kogod

A Working Report to the Next President:
Best Ideas to Grow the Economy

Recommendations from CEOs, Startup Founders, Small Business Owners & Thought Leaders

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

As soon as the final vote is counted on Election Day 2016 and irregardless of which candidate wins the White House, Americans will begin demanding answers. They want solutions from the next President to revive a still struggling economy, which - despite now being near full employment - has yet to produce substantial wage growth and equitable economic growth.

A Gallup poll released on September 15, 2016, reveals American voter’s #1 concern remains the economy.

This report lays out recommendations from business leaders across the country for the next President.

The Kogod School of Business at American University asked a wide range of business, government and economic experts nationwide one simple, non-partisan question:

“If you were called to the White House in January and asked by the new President for one (1) recommendation on a policy action or new law to help grow the economy, what would it be?”

We first posed this question to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, at a Washington forum in April. Dimon responded that “there is no one single step” the next President could take to “fix” the economy, but that – instead – several remedies are needed. We agreed – and decided it was a question well worth posing to others.

From June through August of this presidential election year, we gathered feedback from Fortune 500 CEOs, Washington area leaders, small business owners, start-up founders, and local and state government officials. We sought answers from small and large businesses in all 50 states, and every industry, including manufacturing, real estate, financial services, non-profits, education, energy, retail and more. The answers we received may surprise many:

  • Building new U.S. infrastructure got the most mentions from the widest variety of respondents;
  • Which taxes to reform caused some of the widest divisions among business leaders;
  • Creating more U.S. international trade agreements didn’t get a single mention – but doing more to combat alleged currency manipulation did;
  • And while numerous small business leaders and owners called for a package of incentives focused on small business, more of those leaders called for government leadership and “certainty” than asked for reduced or fewer regulations.

We took our initial findings to both the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to discuss what business leaders there believe are the most pressing and immediate problems to address. These findings will be released in an upcoming separate report. 

 

WHAT ARE THE TOP RECOMMENDATIONS?

 

INFRASTRUCTURE

TEN out of the 50 LEADERS in this report listed infrastructure projects and spending as their single top action item they would urge the next President to take. The range of respondents picking infrastructure projects and spending as their top recommendation was also notable, including corporate CEOs (Marriott’s Sorensen, Clark Enterprises’ Nussdorf and Hilton’s Nassetta) and small business owners (Maine financial services firm CEO Simpson). From GOP state lawmakers (Averitt in Texas) to liberal-leaning nonprofit leaders (water conservationist Samson) to a former Homeland Security official who directed infrastructure security for the White House (Darnell). A major water technology CEO (Baker in Minnesota) cited not just building roads and bridges but building a better national communications infrastructure (as did Leonsis).
Often included on longer lists of economic stimulants, infrastructure has not been the single top priority item in this election. In fact, numerous reports lament the lack of attention being given the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton listed infrastructure in their more recent economic plans as big ticket items - but not their top priority.

EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT

A total of EIGHT RESPONDENTS listed workforce development, education programs, and other programs designed to raise outcomes and improve the United States’ competitive edge. But the specifics were varied: “equitable education” said one small business, while creating new tax-free savings accounts for newborns for college tuition was suggested by Motley Fool’s Gardner. But the consensus around this overall topic as a key economic action item was notable.

TAX REFORM & SMALL BUSINESS INCENTIVES

Tax Reform was cited as the priority in SIX recommendations, and as part of an overall incentives package for businesses in at least FOURTEEN of the recommendations. There was little consensus on specifics, though. Some tax recommendations even directly contradicted each other. Small business incentives were focused on spurring innovation, access to capital, targeting tax incentives, reduced regulations, and certainty in government policy beyond “one year fixes” to budget issues in Washington.

IMMIGRATION

THREE of the 50 respondents cited immigration reform as their top economic growth recommendation, but - like tax reform - at cross purposes, divided as to whether loosened or tightened restrictions were the better response for economic growth.

HEALTH CARE

FOUR of the 50 respondents listed bringing down still high healthcare costs as their top recommendation, while providing little to no specifics on solutions.

AFFORDABLE HOUSING

ONE respondent, Advisory Board CEO Robert Musselwhite, suggested the President grow the economy by focusing on homelessness. He viewed housing as a broader gateway to other economic gains, noting the ripple effect it could have on education achievement, reduced healthcare costs, and other beneficial social and financial outcomes.

INDIVIDUAL RECOMMENDATIONS WORTH Debate

While we did find key areas where our surveyed CEO's and business leaders found commonality (i.e.-infrastructure; workforce development), there were also notable individual responses. While these stood alone in the report's final tallies, they are issues of importance and merit both debate and further consideration by the new White House and Congress, including:

            * CRACK DOWN ON CURRENCY MANIPULATION - Fields, Ford Motor Company; 

            * PRIVATE SECTOR CYBERSECURITY PENALTIES - Murphy, Cyber Safety Harbor;

            * CONVERT LARGE FARM SUBSIDIES TO SCHOOL LUNCH SUBSIDIES - Andrés, ThinkFoodGroup.  

WHAT ARE NOT THE TOP RECOMMENDATIONS?

The formation of new trade pacts is commonly voiced as a priority in our nation’s economic growth; however, not one leader we contacted told us focusing on international trade pacts was a top economic growth recommendation for the next President.

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Corporate Tax Cuts
Education & Workforce
Healthcare
Housing
Immigration Reform
Individual Recommendations
Individual Tax Cuts
Infrastructure
Small Business Incentives
  • “The clean energy economy and actions to address climate change are the single biggest economic opportunity we have seen since the industrial age. The US Government should immediately enact new policies and legislation to create a carbon economy, allowing us to monetize pollution and create clean energy and clean technology incentives to grow that job sector. The US is falling behind other developed countries in funding for innovative green jobs that grown the economy while simultaneously mitigating climate change and addressing resiliency.”
    Lucia Athens
    Chief Sustainability Officer / City of Austin
  • With an economy that continues to struggle to achieve healthy growth rates and a country that has had far too little investment in its infrastructure, the first thing our new President should do is launch a substantial, multi-year infrastructure investment program. Bridges, roads, airports and public transportation systems should be the priorities. The plan will create jobs, address real infrastructure deficiencies and set us up well for future global competition.
    Arne Sorenson
    CEO / Marriott International
  • “Federal regulation is fast becoming the most serious problem for small businesses. The cost in terms of financial resources, personnel hours, litigation risk and time has become overwhelming. The SBA Office of Advocacy estimates that a typical small business must pay more than $12,500 per year, per worker, just to comply with federal regulations. The next president can have a profoundly positive effect on the economy by limiting new regulations and scrutinizing existing rules with the goal of repealing those which are outdated or unjustifiable on a cost/return basis.”
    Juanita Duggan
    President/ CEO / NFIB
  • “For American exports to thrive, the next president must address the top 21st century competitiveness challenge: currency manipulation by our trading partners. By including enforceable rules prohibiting currency manipulation inside of trade agreements, the U.S. will help drive growth in American manufacturing and the good-paying, middle class jobs it supports.”
    Mark Fields
    President/CEO / Ford Motor Company
  • “Short term – I believe incentivizing private domestic investment would generate meaningful economic stimulus. The most obvious (and talked about) way to advance is to substantially reform/reduce taxes on corporate profits earned and retained offshore. “On-shoring” this $2 Trillion of profits held overseas would generate important investment in equipment, innovation and people and provide a much needed spark to the US economy. Longer term, we need a work force training program that prepares the US worker with the skills valued/needed for current and future business demands.”
    Matt Klein
    President & CEO / Akridge
  • “Small and mid-size business continue to struggle with rising healthcare costs. Further, it is unclear why as an IT consulting firm, I have to be in the business of healthcare in the first place. Our current mandated employer-provided healthcare model means we do not have a free labor market; specifically; as a mid-size consulting business, we pay more per employee for healthcare than our larger competitors, which gives the large established companies an unfair competitive advantage in the labor market. In addition, employees have to worry about whether a new potential employer will provide insurance that their current doctor will take, preventing easy movement by employees between employers, and thereby ensuring our labor market is even less "free". Fiscal conservatives from both parties should be demanding that we fix healthcare costs. One fix is a single payer system that lowers costs through efficiencies (Medicare is the most efficient payer in the US, far outperforming transaction cost-wise, even the most efficient for-profit healthcare payer). The single payer system also removes employers from the equation, who are mandated to provide insurance to their employees -- a major distraction from their core business.”
    Michael Pirron
    CEO / Impact Makers
  • “Convert all revenue mechanisms to a flat tax coupled with a negative income tax (to accomplish whatever level of progress of is desired). Convert all social expenditures to vouchers.”
    Patrick Byrne
    CEO / Overstock.com
  • “Homelessness is not only a persistent challenge for many of our citizens and their communities, but, relevant to our business focus, it is also a root cause of high healthcare costs and poor educational outcomes. I would therefore recommend the next President focus on homelessness as an issue impacting the American economy at several levels. With now conclusive evidence that moving homeless Americans into subsidized housing is less costly to communities and certainly more humane than leaving them on the streets, the President should issue a national challenge to reduce homelessness in the US from 1% to 0.1% - the rate of homelessness in Denmark.”
    Robert Musslewhite
    Chairman & CEO / The Advisory Board Company
  • “There’s no policy silver bullet for growing the economy, but in the 21st century knowledge economy – attracting and retaining the best talent from around the world to work in America, to innovate, and to create the ideas, businesses, and jobs to power future economic growth is critical. Immigration reform, from the ways we attract and retain good talent, to the systems and processes for streamlining the legal immigration process, need massive modernization and reform. America has always been a melting pot for the world’s best and brightest, and in the 21st century we should endeavor to continue that tradition through intelligent policy reform.”
    Sid Banerjee
    President / Clarabridge
  • "The next President should go for a moon shot and create a nationwide program guaranteeing jobs for all qualified high school students who want part time work.”
    Walter Isaacson
    CEO / The Aspen Institute
  • “One of our most pressing needs as a nation is a skilled workforce to ensure economic growth and innovation in this century. We face a serious shortage of workers with the vital skills of critical and analytical thinking, problem solving, verbal and written communication, an understanding of history, and STEM competencies. I would ask the next President to make workforce development a key priority.”
    Bobbie Kilberg
    President/CEO / Northern Virginia Technology Council
  • “We look forward to working with our next President on policies and programs that can create jobs and strengthen our economy. It’s critical that we invest in infrastructure such as airports, public transportation and highways, and that we allow more international travelers to visit our country while always ensuring that safety and security remain our top priority. For example, more travelers – who can each spend thousands of dollars within our borders – could visit the U.S. if we reduced wait times for visa applications at consulates, established electronic visa applications wherever possible, and expanded our visa waiver program to include more nations.”
    Chris Nassetta
    President & CEO / Hilton Worldwide
  • “We need to have a cohesive policy on nutrition in this country. Health Care costs remain an anchor around the neck of small businesses, and there is a direct link between the worsening nutrition in our country and those spiraling Healthcare costs. Until the USDA changes their subsidy program to align with nutritional crops, they are in fact promoting our broken food system. By paying Billions to lower costs of corn (HFCS), wheat, soy and cotton, and virtually nothing for fruits and vegetables, the USDA is perpetuating the American diet as is. Which in turn creates the highest healthcare costs in the world.”
    Ed King
    General Manager / Littleton Food Co-op
  • "Small businesses create the majority of new jobs in our country and are the bedrock of our economy, but they struggle to get the capital they need to start and grow their businesses," said John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority. "While there are some programs in place to help provide the capital small businesses need, there are significant gaps that remain, especially in minority and rural communities and for women and veterans. Moreover, when capital is made available it often comes at too high a cost and without adequate disclosures of the risks. In order to grow our economy, we must put policies in place to ensure entrepreneurs have greater access to responsible lending options."
    John Arensmeyer
    Founder & CEO / Small Business Majority
  • “I would tell the President to make all illegal immigrants legal so they will start paying taxes and then I would close the borders. I would also revamp our social services and welfare programs to cut out waste.”
    Kristina Bouweiri
    President & CEO / Reston Limousine
  • “We have to figure out a way to lower the taxes paid by small businesses in America. Small business owners provide the majority of jobs in our economy. As business taxes continue to rise it makes it more and more difficult for small business owners to risk the capital required to hire more people and grow the economy. Provide a tax credit to small business for every new hire they make.”
    Kyndel Bennett
    President / Cayetano Developments
  • “Ask the next President to double the earned income tax credit to get more lower income Americans in the workforce.”
    Mike Duggan
    Mayor / Detroit, Michigan
  • “The number one thing the next president can do to stimulate job creation so that our middle class can find entry and mid level jobs is to cut the corporate tax rate to 15%. Data shows this will stimulate existing business, entice international business to relocate to the USA, stimulate business creation and actually increase the amount of tax revenue we will collect.”
    Siobhan Dunnavant
    Virginia State Senator & OBGYN / R- 12th District
  • "As a small business owner in Alabama, my company continues to struggle with the expense of providing healthcare to his employees. I am calling on the next White House to help small businesses across America by taking immediate action to bring down the still high costs of healthcare."
    Bill Woodhouse
    CEO / eSolutions Architects Inc.
  • “Give me a reason to believe again. While there are macro concerns: regulatory burdens, growing national debt, etc., one thing that can help small business owners reinvest in their organization and people is a sense of optimism. Following years of modest growth (since the ‘08 recession) many business leaders need a “reason to believe again.” Mounting costs (healthcare, overtime labor costs and technology investments) coupled with an increasingly challenging landscape (including costly insurance addressing patent trolls) have taken their toll on entrepreneurs. We’re weary from one very overwhelming and constant sense of uncertainty. Without optimism, without hope of advancing our companies, our people and our brand – being a business owner is a grind. In this case a 7-year grind. What to do? Consider striking or delaying the pending overtime labor regulation, postpone or re-work ACA increases and adopt pro-growth business tax reform. This would signal change and more importantly – a reason to believe, again.”
    Cary Hatch
    CEO / MDB Communications
  • “America’s strength is that we have an educated workforce so the one thing I would want our new president to focus on is making sure that we have equitable education for every American from our youngest - no matter in what zip code they are born – to our older workers seeking the skills for the jobs of tomorrow.”
    Jane Campbell
    Director of the DC Office / National Development Council
  • "Here is my one question: Can you provide the necessary leadership on the Hill to provide a bipartisan solution to repatriate foreign subsidiaries earnings. Example: Suppose I own and operate a company called Kane Co in the US. Then suppose I own a company Kane LTD in Germany. It is a legal foreign subsidiary of Kane Co. If Kane LTD earns a profit, then Kane Co has to pay the foreign tax rate on the profit in Germany. I don’t have to pay taxes on the earnings in the US unless I bring the money into the US for reinvestment or shareholder dividends. What are my incentives for Kane Co to repatriate the Kane LTD profits into the US? There is no incentive because under the current tax rules I would have to pay a second tax on Kane LTD’s earning in the US. And the US has the highest corporate tax rate in the industrialized world. Estimates from both sides of the isle are that there is between $2- $3 Trillion in cash that could come in and be reinvested."
    John Kane
    CEO / The Kane Company
  • “A great way to help the economy is to concentrate in fighting hunger and obesity by changing our old farm bill. Redirect funds to feed every child, making them better prepared to study and succeed. Hire chefs at every school, preparing nutritious food and creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, buying from small local farmers empowering local rural economies. America will be healthier with savings in the billions and higher productivity.”
    José Andrés
    Chef & President / ThinkFoodGroup
  • “The first initiatives should be an Infrastructure Improvement Bill that (1) addresses the deterioration of our critical infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, mass transit systems, pipelines, transmission lines and telecommunications capabilities and; (2) provides incentives for employing the chronically unemployed.”
    Larry Nussdorf
    CEO / Clark Enterprises
  • “Entrepreneurs create and reinvigorate the businesses that drive economic growth. Too many with promise from outside the US are educated or trained here and then forced to leave. The new President should push for immigration and visa policies that allow and incentivize them to stay in the US to form their companies and contribute their ideas.”
    Lyles Carr
    Senior Vice President / The McCormick Group
  • “The government should create Newborn Investment Accounts (NIAs) that enable families to invest up to $5000 into a tax-free account that indexes across the US market. The accounts could be accessible at age 60 and ought to yield $200,000 - $250,000 in value to each individual. The initiative would also teach the power of compounding and long-term investment to every participating family.“
    Tom Gardner
    CEO/Co-Chairman / The Motley Fool
  • “The new President should require unbiased, culturally-sensitive ‘gifted’ screening in all elementary schools (not just the ones with proactive parents) across the country and facilitate stimulating educational opportunities for these children within their local school systems from K-12. Education is a core social determinant of health & health equity.”
    Charlene Brown
    CEO & Co-Founder / ReciproCare
  • “Pass legislation to remove immunity from damages related to cyber security breaches. By solving the cyber crisis, we will stop a large part of the trillion dollars in annual cyber theft, which can be redirected to help grow our economy. As long as businesses are not financially responsible for breaches, why should they worry about preventing them? Fixing the problem would cut into their bottom line; doing nothing is free. As a result, their customers suffer but not their stockholders. Cyber security is the growth industry of the next generation. Coupled with Cyber Safety Harbor’s $100 Million Annual Cyber Grant Program Plan which will not only create local cyber experts to meet this need, but allow profits to be redirected back into community development: it’s a win-win solution that is long overdue. If every cyber security breach were preventable, is the next breach negligence? Decide quickly: it will happen again in 9 minutes! Cyber Safety Harbor’s patented technology could have prevented almost every one.”
    Chris Murphy
    CEO / Cyber Safety Harbor
  • “Businesses have shown they can survive in almost any economic condition. Now we should give them the opportunity not just survive, but to thrive! Small businesses need predictability in tax and regulatory policies in order to expand and grow. Increasing certainty in these arenas will empower business owners to invest more in their businesses, create jobs and grow the economy.”
    Jeanette Armbrust
    President/CEO / Skyline Exhibits of Central Ohio
  • “The next President should make high speed Internet access available to everyone in the US, including low-income and rural households.”
    Ted Leonsis
    Founder, Chairman & CEO / Monumental Sports + Entertainment
  • “As a physician who has been in private practice for over 20 years, I think that there needs to be more physician and nursing input into rules that affect our patients. Both positions were for private groups. One simple change that would make the market more competitive for our patient’s insurance premiums would be to break down the state barriers of health insurance carriers. If patients can compare rates of all insurers in the United States, rather than just the ones approved in their states, then there would be an even playing field and patients could choose from multiple options. In the State of Delaware for instance, Highmark Blue Cross of Delaware dominates over 70% of the patients, including the Medicaid patient population, leaving pretty much a monopoly for them in DE. If the citizens of Delaware could choose from the many other insurers throughout the United States, then the over $2600 family premiums offered by Highmark would be easily challenged by other competitors.”
    Vincent Schaller
    Founder/Medical Director / Mid-Atlantic Concussion Alliance
  • “While there are many important and pressing policy matters facing the nation, one that is critical to our nation's growth and prosperity also is rather easy to solve: we need to address our nation’s insufficient and deteriorating infrastructure. In doing so, we should be guided by a broad definition that includes not only roads, bridges, public utility lines, airports, ports and rails, but also communications systems, including mobile and fixed broadband. No other single action will have as profound an impact on our nation’s economy and productivity in both the short and long term. To lead the world, our people, our ideas and our products must move quickly and easily to every corner of our country and the world. The next Administration and Congress need to make infrastructure a priority and unleash both public and private investment into all of these areas. With interest rates at historic lows, now is the ideal time to leverage access to less-expensive capital and make the needed investments in our country. The need to act is clear. The time to act is now.”
    Douglas Baker, Jr.
    Chairman/CEO / Ecolab Inc.
  • “Focus on education and improving job training skills for the workforce of the 21st century. Because as we have seen from Brexit and overall antiglobalization movements worldwide, this type of thinking seems to be concentrated in the populations most at risk as a result of globalization. We have to make sure people understand the benefits of a globally interdependent economy are not without costs. But overall, the benefits outweigh the costs in terms of new innovations, increased standard of livings, and the overall benefit that one gets through fair global competition and trade.”
    Frank DuBois
    Associate Professor, Department of International Business / American University
  • "Support the small American farmer. America's small farmers have their hands in the dirt, they're tending to the soil and they're protecting the future of real food. It's not an easy job, and there's a lot of risk — these farmers and fueled by passion and purpose, and their 24/7/365 work is a key ingredient in building healthier communities. We need to support these local growers, buy their food and respect the important work they do."
    Karen Kelley
    President & COO / Sweetgreen
  • “Make the formation of entrepreneurial activity a government priority: The formulation of effective policy for entrepreneurial ecosystems should include the presence of tax credits and incentives to support robust, competent actors to be leaders in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, along with policies that are responsive and flexible to support emerging entrepreneurs and their businesses, especially those disrupting the commons.”
    Melissa Bradley
    Executive in Residence / Department of Management at American University
  • “Invest in children. Bring the US's primary and secondary schools up to par with other industrialized nations. Invest in not only universal pre-K, but guarantee public school for all children 3 years and older. Award higher tax credits for childcare expenses. And most importantly: finally mandate maternity and paternity leave with full pay for new parents.”
    Bettina Hein
    CEO / Pixability
  • “Our country should invest in infrastructure. School buildings to further the prime directive of educating our future leaders and voters, roads to make commerce efficient, water infrastructure (particularly repairing old infrastructure that will have to be addressed anyway), and finally, my favorite: We should be investing in making our country energy independent. Instead of spending trillions protecting foreign oil supplies, we should be investing in making our nation secure and independent. This would unleash the great American entrepreneurial genius.”
    Kip Averitt
    Texas State Senator / R-22nd District
  • “In my view, our current approaches to economic growth leave too many Americans behind and, with the changing demographics in this country, we need a policy approach that acknowledges and engages those who are not fully participating in the current economic and political systems – particularly people and communities of color. The place to start would be reimagining our electoral and voting systems, which currently are enabling the few to make decisions that affect the many. My recommendation to the incoming President is to put systems in place that ensure that everyone has a voice and a say in the policies that affect them.”
    Nicky Goren
    President & CEO / The Meyer Foundation
  • “Small businesses are the heart of the American economy but are often relegated to second class status when it comes to access to capital and unique benefits for taking the risk of starting a business. The next president should give small business owners a personal tax credit for 25% of the incremental salaries created each year during the first five years of their business. The tax credit should be sellable in the event the SMB owner is operating at a loss during this period.”
    Robert Frohwein
    CEO / Kabbage
  • "I would recommend creation of a major infrastructure initiative, with components ranging from CCC-WPA style programs as well as major transportation and water infrastructure projects."
    Andrew Sansom
    Executive Director / Meadows Center for Environment and Water
  • “The future of US economic growth will hinge on the next US President becoming the national education champion—not just the ‘commander-in-chief’ but also the ‘teacher-in-chief.’ We need a moon-shot policy to fundamentally enhance the competitiveness of our human capital. Our country needs to significantly raise its global game compared to other economies, especially in terms of investing in, and trading with, emerging markets—from the BRICs to sub-Saharan Africa. These markets will continue to contribute more than advanced countries to the growth of the global economy—a compositional transformation that is a structural, not a cyclical, phenomenon. The acceleration of technological advances in transport, communication, financial services, and manufacturing processes over the past several decades that have significantly reduced the effective geographic space between national markets to unprecedented levels will only intensify, and do so exponentially.”
    Harry Broadman
    Senior Fellow / Johns Hopkins University’s Foreign Policy Institute
  • "One recommendation would be “an immediate reduction in the astronomical interest rates that the Federal Government charges and allows to be charged on student debt; especially graduate students. This would help infuse those dollars into a weak economy. I would permanently eliminate the 3.2% excise tax on medical equipment that has hurt American manufacturers of large medical devices. We need to employ more Americans in jobs that pay well and have benefits. Taxes like these stifle business growth. As a resident in a state that lost jobs to NAFTA I think I look at it from the rear view mirror and see if we gained as much as we lost.”
    Maxine Feinberg
    Immediate Past President / American Dental Association
  • “Rapid risks of climate change are threatening our economic, ecological and social fabric. Climate change is really water change. The pointy end of climate change is variability of the hydrologic cycle that causes droughts and floods to be more frequent and more severe. In order to reduce carbon emissions from the water cycle, to limit the massive cost of modernizing our water system, and to make our water supply more resilient, the next President should transform our nation's drinking water management system by investing in the "3 Ds" of innovative water management and infrastructure: Digital, Decentralized and Distributed. (1) Digital: Collect, analyze and share digital water data to enable innovative software solutions; (2) Decentralized water systems, such as rainwater collection and onsite treatment, are more feasible because our current centralized systems will be too expensive to repair and upgrade; and (3) Distributed water management will make local communities less reliant on imported water while becoming more resilient and self-sufficient.”
    Peter Yolles
    Founder/CPO / WaterSmart Software
  • “From my experience, the greatest detriment to growth for a small/mid-sized company is access to capital. Unless you are a tech firm or have something that could equate to the next unicorn, good luck. The threshold for investment is very high, almost to the point of investors needing personal guarantees. I have been amazed at the timidity of Venture Capitalists and PE funds. Then, of course comes the extreme price to pay in order to compensate any perceived risk from a lender. All of this amounts to a slowdown of investment, which in turn means a slowdown in business growth. Lastly, the Angel investor is a great concept, and they do exist; but it is important to ascend from the Angel as soon as possible in order to truly accelerate your growth. The reason being, an Angel investor has an emotional attachment to his/her money. Until some type of institutional funding is found, growth will suffer. In concept, banks are an ideal source for a business to get access to capital, but the reality is that the Small Business Loan program is not functioning well. The metrics for loan approval a very high and tough to meet for a new company with no established credit record. The process for loans are long and laborious. A loan officer once told me that they only loan to their minimum requirement on small business loans because they take up a great deal of effort, and the return is minimal.Banks are being targeted today as a bad part of our system, the tool of our elite 1%. I would encourage the President to kick off a recover by letting the banks lead our recover, through low cost loans to small business. Incentivize the loans with guarantees and tax breaks, and encourage banks to publish their small business loans to the public and government.”
    Rolland Thompson
    President / Tactical Air Support
  • “Dramatically improve the educational outcomes, as measured by high school completion, for ALL children. How? Guarantee reliable, affordable housing to low income families and provide childcare so that parents can work. Children learn to learn if their educations are not disrupted by the misfortunes facing our poorest, most disadvantaged citizens.”
    Jill Klein
    Executive in Residence, Department of Information Technology / American University
  • “Each year the regulatory burdens, both direct and indirect, on small businesses grow – and grow exponentially by pyramiding one on top of the other. With each new burden, come additional reporting requirements. With additional reporting requirements, come additional costs. These costs take resources away from the bottom line of America’s businesses. This is the same bottom line that small, medium and large business owners would normally tap to reinvest in their businesses, which in-turn fuels economic growth. Given that many, myself included, consider the period from the end of World War II until the early 1970’s as the golden era of American Capitalism, the policy I propose is simple. Look at every new federal regulation that was introduced in America between 1970 and the present THEN eliminate half of them. For nearly half a century, we have gone down the path of adding new regulations and bureaucracy that have stifled the greatest middle class growth engine the world had ever seen. When you’ve lost your way, you don’t start off in a new direction. You retrace your steps to get back on the right path.”
    Mario Burgos
    President/CEO / Burgos Group, LLC
  • " Economic growth and employment will come as successful startups and tech companies grow and expand quickly. We have to remove any friction that inhibits their potentially explosive growth to increase their chances of successes. A very tangible way to do this would be to reduce tax burdens, provide tax incentives based on employment or investment and to also give angel investors and venture capitalists more tax credits and tax incentives to risk their capital on startups. I think this is the easiest, simplest, and most easily measured way that government can help grow the economy."
    Tien Wong
    Chairman and CEO / Tech2000
  • “Focus on small business. Over 50% of the working population works in small business. Reduce the regulations and tax burden on small businesses so they can build their business, employ more people, and help drive the economy with their owner's entrepreneurial spirit.”
    Marc Lefkowitz
    Owner / Pro Team Cycling
  • “I think the impact of fiscal policy is very limited in the short run and very consequential in the longer run, say over a generation or more. My policy recommendations would be to invest in education and infrastructure , two vectors that will position the US economy for sustainable competitive advantage. The commitment to these vectors in level of investment and over time matters more in my view than a narrow policy plank or short term stimulus. Examples of investments I’d advocate for cut across both sides of the political spectrum, including: quality and achievement standards for public education (particularly in math and science), investment in eLearning into curricula, lower student debt burden for higher education, increases in H1B visa immigration, and trade school education for jobs that pay living wage minimum. Investments in infrastructure would include upgrading roads, bridges, and tunnels, development of alternate fuel sources economically superior to oil, gas, and coal, and pursuing leadership in our technology capabilities. Investments require funding and we need to get our fiscal balance sheet in order I’d push specifically for some form of higher tax rates at the top of the income chain and reform to entitlement spending. The math isn’t that hard to solve but we’ll need to have foresight and political will to make it happen. That’s hard to imagine in today’s political environment but still the right aspiration to have.”
    Scott Simpson
    President/CEO / Blue Tarp Financial Inc.
  • “I would recommend to the next President to put the full weight of the executive branch of government in developing a plan to fix and upgrade our infrastructure, particularly our transportation and electrical grid systems. Many of our roads and bridges are well beyond the intended life cycle for usage, or were not designed to handle the increased amount of traffic on them. Our public transportation systems have not kept pace with growth in densely populated areas and are largely inefficient at moving people from point to point to because of lack of vision and proper financial planning to maintain and upgrade public transportation systems. Our electrical grid system requires more redundancy and integration to prevent outages and failures that directly affect a geographic region but can also have consequential economic effects on other parts of the country not directly hit by an outage. Fixing our transportation and electrical grid systems would go a long way with helping the economy because they are critical to delivering goods and services, transporting people to and from places of business and social activities, and sustaining other critical systems such as financial, health and social media systems.”
    Darrell Darnell
    Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security / George Washington University

CONCLUSION

Overall, the recommendations in this report signal that there are pockets of agreement potentially emerging in Washington. And with this consensus shared across a widening spectrum of respondents, action may even be possible in the new year.

Signs of growing consensus around both INFRASTRUCTURE and EDUCATION AND WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT for economic growth suggest that these issue could leapfrog other more frequently cited economic growth policies as action items in 2017 - by both the next White House and Congress.

The lack of consensus in our report over which types of TAX INCENTIVES and IMMIGRATION and HEALTH CARE reforms would best grow the economy (and have the backing of business leaders) suggests those items may move down the list of Washington priorities in 2017.

Also in this report, there are also numerous individual recommendations we believe merit debate and discussion - not only in this Presidential campaign, but in living rooms, classrooms, boardrooms and policy corridors across the country. Only through a far more thorough examination of the recommendations put forward in this report can we truly have an open debate about the best ideas to grow the American economy.

Rebecca Cooper, Kogod School of Business

September 22, 2016