Execs stress education, training to Jobs Council

Posted June 13, 2011

— Better trained and educated workers – especially engineers – along with faster technology transfer from public labs to the private sector and an immigration plan to help foreign students to remain in the U.S. headlined the shopping list of ways the government could help boost entrepreneurship and create more jobs. President Obama speaks at Cree Obama visits Cree

So said a collection of nearly 40 private sector executives and entrepreneurs who met in Durham with Austan Goolsbee, chair of the Council of Economic Advisors to President Obama, and members of the President's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness

“We want to hear from you,” said Goolsbee, who chaired the meeting at a packed conference room in the headquarters of advertising and marketing firm McKinney.

After touring the American Underground new business incubator at the American Tobacco Historic District, Goolsbee and four other members of the Council huddled with the Triangle executives.

“You will never have a clearer line to the ear of the President,” added Goolsbee, who took numerous notes through the one-hour plus question-and-answer session. He pointed out that the Obama administration has already cut taxes and regulation and provided funding for additional loans from the Small Business Administration.

Obama's jobs council visits Durham Executives stress education, training to Jobs Council

However, Goolsbee also acknowledged a recent report that fewer new companies were being started over the past five years than in 20 years of data. Citing other data that pointed out small businesses created a “net 40 million jobs” between 1994-2007 and have “always been a major driver of economic growth,” Goolsbee said the council was seeking ways to get the start-up job creation engine roaring again.

The audience responded with numerous suggestions, and the responses expanded far beyond the normal concern expressed by most Triangle startups – the lack of investment capital.

“It’s not just the capital,” said Christopher Gergen of Bull City Forward, an effort to help create more new ventures. “How do we get better deal flow?”

Deal flow is a venture capital term for start-ups in search of investors.

Laura Schoppe, whose company Fuentek works with federal agencies and labs in technology transfer, said government lab commercialization efforts are “not well funded.” One result, she stressed, is that the commercialization pipeline of government discoveries “is not full.”

Schoppe called for streamlining of commercialization and standardization of language so government labs and the private sector can be on the same page. She complained that the labs “don’t communicate” with each other.

Bill Brown of 8 Rivers Capital, an investment firm, noted that the government can be helpful through encouraging more people to become entrepreneurs. He also broadened the concept of what an entrepreneur is.

“A lot of people think they aren’t entrepreneurs because they aren’t creating something new,” he said. But his company is looking for startups who “focus on a problem” and to win its backing the company’s solution “must be cheaper and better.”

Katrina McCallum, a vice president with Red Hat, liked Brown’s comment about who is an entrepreneur.

“You have to be a problem solver – I love that,” she said.

In addition to helping foster more entrepreneurship, McCallum said the government could help the private sector by retraining workers for more technologically demanding positions.

“A lot of jobs are not easily retrainable,” said McCallum. “The technology gap is a very steep cliff to climb for a lot of people.”

Gergen also noted that companies are having trouble recruiting adequately trained employees, noting 5,000 open engineering jobs in the region.

Goolsbee pointed out that the government wants to “add 100,000 STEM teachers” for science, technology, engineering and math. But that number isn’t enough since many current baby boomer STEM teachers are nearing retirement, he noted.

The lack of qualified workers led to a discussion of immigration issues, which Goolsbee acknowledged is a politically sensitive topic.

Gergen recommended that any foreign student graduating with a PhD would receive an “automatic green card.” The debate about green cards that permit foreign workers, especially in high-tech, to work in the U.S. has supporters and critics on both sides of the political aisle. Obama's visit to Durham

In a series of proposals submitted to President Obama later Monday by the council, a relaxation of visas for foreign visitors was included. The council also said high-tech visas are a subject it will explore as part of a more formal job creation plan.

Steve Case, who heads the Startup America project for Obama and was part of the council touring the Triangle, said a good strategy going forward would be to “unbundle it from the broader debate.”

Other council members attending the discussion were Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, Dick Parsons, chairman of Citigroup, and Robert Wolf, chairman of UBS Americas.

Ping Fu, chief executive officer of Geomagic software and a member of the Startup America effort along with UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp, also attended the meeting.

The jobs council includes subcommittees focused on jobs, high-growth companies, innovation, regulatory reform, infrastructure/investment, high tech education and taxes. 

'It's really hard to get a company started'

Rion Holland, a WakeTech graduate, wanted to start a company designing video games, so he partnered with Joystick Labs, which is one of several businesses in American Underground. His idea then turned into a business reality with mentoring and other support.

"There's paperwork and there's business things that you don't take into account," Holland said.

John Austin, Joystick's managing director, says "it's really hard to get a company started."

"If you are working in your garage all alone, you haven't faced some of the problems of starting a company," Austin said.

Goolsbee saw Joystick's operation while on his tour Monday and liked what he saw.

"This is exactly the kind of environment where it's collaborative. There are a lot of people around. You know, they are bumping into each other all the time. That's where all the ideas spread," he said.


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  • USN Vet Jun 13, 2011

    Funny thing that in Durham we are being told that the education process doesn't appear to be meeting the business world's needs, but yet in Raleigh the Gov is trying to save the education process that is presently in place.

  • Rebelyell55 Jun 13, 2011

    FlyWell, superman, on top of that, we should tax all the cats, birds and dogs owned by people that choose not to have children. guyNC,

    Not sure about the cats, but most county do tax the dogs. "birds" I not sure unless they are chickens.

  • Rebelyell55 Jun 13, 2011

    A lot posting hitting the nail on the head. Most people over 45 can get jobs, but no benefits. Some can't get jobs, because where they use to work over looked some "limitation" where now those disabilities can't be accomidated. Hard of hearing, can't be pass the good communication skill needed. Can't stand for long hours, no good for assembly work. Limited on lifting, can't pass the weight requirement. The insurance companies looks at a companies, average age of workers and deem what to charge. Save money on insurance, drop the average age of worker. This is the new business model. No worker is expendiable. One of the hardest skill to train any worker is in problem solving. It take a certain "knack" and thought process with a lot of experience. Young worker don't have this. Yet companies still let the experience go to save money. Then turn right around and hire consultants went they get in a bind. No saving at all.

  • BIlzac Jun 13, 2011

    And since I'm on a roll...

    If you are a company that can afford to pay your CEO (and other top officers) 7 figure bonuses, you qualify for no tax breaks.

    And finally, why is it seemingly so impossible to create legislation that makes it illegal to market in commodities just to turn a profit? I've read numerous reports that strongly suggest that much of the run up in oil prices is due to speculation. In some reports I've read they say that nearly 65% of the market in crude oil is speculative only. That means there are wealthy individuals out there playing with oil prices just to become wealthier.

    Meanwhile, the average joe's among us struggle to put gas in our cars to get to work and school, and still pay the bills.

    If we could just find some common sense individuals who would commit a few years to serving in politics, maybe some of this garbage would get cleaned up.

  • flyguync Jun 13, 2011

    "Eliminate the dependent deduction on the income tax. Tax each dependent. In addition a big stiff penalty for people who elect to have more than one child. We dont need more workers. We dont have jobs for the ones we have. superman"

    Well, superman, on top of that, we should tax all the cats, birds and dogs owned by people that choose not to have children. Taxing people that way takes away their spending power - that's what helped get us into this mess. Maybe the government should get the spending under control and we would have more disposable income.

  • BIlzac Jun 13, 2011

    For one thing, if there truly are over 2 million jobs out there, those business leaders should be passing that information on to the people in the states.

    But you and I both know that there is no such thing.

    The problem with business is that they take as much as they can get in tax cuts and credits, then ship their facilities to foreign countries.

    And where are our political leaders? They're out running for re-election, pandering to whatever they think will get them the vote.

    How about a law, a really simple law. If you own a company, and you move an entire production facility to a foreign country, in the process ending U.S. jobs, you qualify for ZERO tax breaks, credits, whatever, until and unless you replace those jobs.

    And here's another one. I'm no isolationist, but there are plenty of countries that charge significant tariffs on U.S. products. Why are we not doing the same with those countries? You charge a tariff on our goods, we do the same to yours.

  • computer trainer Jun 13, 2011

    I would say 75% or more of the unemployed have at the LEAST 2 or more years of college, at least in NC. Most of them are graduates with degrees that are employable, BUT many of them are over 45. So, why would they be hired? They will be retiring in a few years, so let's hire the young folks, who we can get for a LOT less, AND will be with us for a long time.

    And, as I asked earlier, WHERE are these unemployed people suppose to get the MONEY for college? And is there a magic list somewhere that tells people just WHERE all these wonderful jobs are?

  • superman Jun 13, 2011

    Please excuse the president. He has recently fallen out of a tree and he has not recovered. Does he really believe that people are out of work because of lack of edakution?

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Jun 13, 2011

    Their excuse doesn't hold water because the NCESC has said the majority of those still laid off since the 2008 crash are highly educated, highly trained and highly experienced management to middle management people.

    So what they told Obama is just an excuse, and I bet he's too lame to research it further to find that out firsthand.

    The largest problem with finding jobs in the US today is the number of jobs companies have outsources overseas. Bring those jobs back, and there will be plenty of jobs for the unemployed.

    Leave them where they are, and nothing will change.

    Highly tax the products or companies providing services sent overseas when they're coming back into the country, and some of them will come back to help the US with the unemployment problem here.

  • superman Jun 13, 2011

    There are several people who graduated from college and unable to find work. Seems they lack experience required for the job of which there are very few. Eliminate the dependent deduction on the income tax. Tax each dependent. In addition a big stiff penalty for people who elect to have more than one child. We dont need more workers. We dont have jobs for the ones we have. What we need are more jobs. Most of the jobs have been sent overseas which is our own fault. Americans want it and want it now. We buy cheap so we can have it all. We are all responsible for this mess. America will never ever recover and we be the super power we once were.