By Lois Capps on January 6, 2012
As we enter a new year, jumpstarting economic growth and creating good-paying jobs remains my top priority. Last fall, I had the privilege of hosting a number of my constituents from up and down the Central Coast for “Job Creation Day” in Washington, D.C., an exciting day of learning, discussion and brainstorming about how best to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, locally and nationwide.
The Job Creation Day participants included leaders and experts in business, economic development, housing, labor and education from San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. They met with leaders in Congress, senior White House officials and policy experts and discussed a number of ways that the federal government can work with the private sector to help spur job creation, including investing in research and development, building a world-class infrastructure and strengthening our education system to give our children the skills they need to succeed and build the qualified workforce businesses need to thrive.
Two themes that continue to emerge are the importance of innovation in fueling economic development and job creation, and making sure our kids are the best educated in the world. Our discussions during that day and more recently have been diverse and spirited, but there remains a clear consensus on what must be done to jumpstart economic growth now and maintain our economic competitiveness in the future: Make it easier for businesses to succeed by increasing access to credit and improving the business environment through smart investments in education, innovation and infrastructure.
We all agreed that the federal government needs to preserve its investments in innovation and research and development. Innovation has long been a key to U.S. economic growth. In fact, a Department of Commerce study concluded that 75 percent of economic growth since World War II has stemmed directly from innovation — a striking number. A number of the Central Coast small businesses represented at Job Creation Day, including Anasys Instruments, Social Intelligence and Transphorm, were all founded with an innovative idea. A number of federal efforts are already in place to fund research and innovation, including Small Business Innovation Research, Advanced Research Projects for Energy and existing grant programs at the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Many companies on the Central Coast would not exist had it not been for these research programs, and we must strengthen them moving forward.
There was also broad consensus that an educated work force equipped to compete with workers around the world is essential to ensuring long term economic growth. Speaking on one of the panel discussions during Job Creation Day, Department of Education Senior Advisor Rosemarie Nassif emphasized the importance of improving achievement in higher education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. One of the local attendees, Nick Whelan, CEO of LifeCel Technology LLC in Santa Barbara, echoed that message and discussed the difficulties high tech firms encounter in finding PhDs to fill open positions.
President Obama has set a goal for the United States to have the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by 2020. Currently, the college graduation rate in the United States is only 38 percent, 14th in the world. Clearly, improving our nation’s education system, from elementary school to the halls of UC Santa Barbara or Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, is another key to remaining competitive in the 21st century.
I greatly appreciate the participation from all those who came to Job Creation Day, which illuminated many of the challenges facing our economy and provided some answers to those challenges. And to those who continue to contribute ideas to this important discussion.
I hope that we can build on this important effort and continue working together to build a stronger economy for all Americans.
• Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, represents California’s 23rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.