September 29, 2022
Suzanne P. Clark
President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Group Publisher and Executive Editor, Crain’s Chicago Business
Today’s business climate has faced unprecedented times the past few years, from an ongoing pandemic to rising inflation and a possible recession. These challenges have changed how we do business globally and the responses the government should implement to keep our economy thriving.
During opening remarks at the State of American Business Chicago Summit, Jim Kirk, Group Publisher and Executive Editor at Crain’s Chicago Business, spoke with Suzanne P. Clark, President and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about generation-defining issues faced by Chicago businesses and nationwide businesses alike.
The Business Community Must Help Foster Job Creation
Clark noted that the U.S. Chamber consists of “a real federation of people who believe, no matter what party they belong to … that a job is good for a community, is good for our country, is good for health outcomes, [and] is good for environmental outcomes.”
Clark posed the question: “What is it that we can do as a business community to help job creators do what they do best?”
“Chicago's doing a great job of it,” she said. “We have eight board members in Illinois. We have members in Illinois that represent 18 industries and half a billion dollars in revenue.”
Additionally, on the small business side, she continued, there are record business startups in Chicago and in Illinois as a whole.
“I came here to see that, to feel the energy, to see the innovation and what you're all building, and to learn what we can do to be more helpful,” she said.
Encouraging Competition Will Help the Business Community Solve Ongoing Issues
According to Clark, “competition's at the heart of free enterprise” — and encouraging competition is healthy for the economy.
“It's really at the heart of democracy and the founding of our country,” she said. “I love to meet entrepreneurs who say, ‘I have an idea. I have something I can make better — I wanna compete and bring that to market.’”
Clark noted that her job is to find ways to create and protect the space for people to experiment with their ideas and bring them to fruition.
“I love watching the competition for ideas win the future,” she said. “We have big complex problems that we're facing, but we can do it. We can find the solutions, we can find the answers through the spirit of competition.”
The Government Must Step Up To Address Crime and Public Safety
Chicago is especially facing pitfalls due to crime, with more than 50% of small businesses falling victim to shoplifting in 2022, according to Clark. As a result, 46% of those small businesses have raised their prices.
“No American family needs anything more inflationary right now,” Clark said. “This is a real problem for families, communities, and businesses.”
However, more concerning is the “inability to keep their employees and customers safe, and we're hearing about it nationwide,” she continued. “[We need] better prosecutors prosecuting crime, harsher criminal penalties, lower thresholds for a felony, and [a safer] online marketplace for sellers.”
“There is a really serious role for government,” Clark added. “We want to be safe [and] there are really important roles for the government to be playing, and when they try to do everything, they stop doing the things they really need to do.”
Clark added that addressing government overreach isn't simple.
“We need the government to do the really specific things we need them to do, and I think public safety's at the top of that list,” she said.
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