Aug 07, 2015 - 2:30pm

Working on the Future of Business


Executive Director, Communications & Strategy

Senior Editor, Digital Content

Alcoa’s Danville, Illinois, plant employs 64 workers who churn out aluminum sheets that will eventually become automobile doors, hoods, and fenders. Despite its success, the plant has struggled to find enough skilled workers to fill its job postings since it opened nearly two decades ago.

But today’s issues can be attacked with tomorrow’s solutions—and the workforce of the future.

“We have taken a proactive approach and are trying to educate students starting as early as 7th grade,” says plant manager Ray Morgan. He works with local economic development group Vermilion Advantage to support and craft middle- and high-school curriculums that introduce young students to the technical skills they will need to work in today’s evolving manufacturing sector. “We’re basically grooming our future associates and future business leaders.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) is working with firms like Alcoa and organizations like Vermillion Advantage to expand similar initiatives and help prepare the next generation of American workers. Vermilion Advantage was one of seven regional partners selected by the USCCF and USA Funds to test the Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) initiative. Started last year, the program explores ways to transform the relationship between educators, workers, and business leaders to ensure that America has the workforce it needs to compete in the 21st century.

Alcoa’s Danville plant brought on two interns this year who previously had trained with the company. Dylan Haun and Tanner Root now attend Danville Area Community College, where Alcoa helps tailor and fund additional workforce development programs. Haun says that the opportunity with Alcoa is “an invaluable experience.”

“It really helps me see the value in youth training,” Haun adds. “The support and the mentorship, the time these men and women invest in me—it all pushed me to better myself.” 

Besides the talent pipeline, here’s a look at what else is unfolding at the Chamber. 

Education 

Investing in the country’s workforce means investing in the country’s future. The U.S. Chamber continues to promote the development of a more skilled and sustainable workforce.

  • The USCCF released a white paper earlier this year that provides employers with strategies to help them cultivate young talent as part of their overall business plan. This is part of a broader effort by the Chamber to help U.S. businesses build a stronger, more secure workforce. A case study report later identified ways companies are partnering with educators to help close the nation’s yawning skills gaps. To learn more, go to uschamberfoundation.org/cew

Trade

The Chamber continues to push to make it easier for American companies to reach customers around the globe.

  • Hard work from many, including the Chamber, paid off on June 29 when President Barack Obama signed legislation renewing Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). The Chamber was out front in the effort to build support for TPA among lawmakers, the public, and the business community.
  • Now that TPA is done, it is time to finish the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). 
  • The Chamber has continued to make the case to Congress for reauthorization of the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, whose charter expired on June 30, and John Murphy, Chamber senior vice president for international policy, testified on June 2 in front of a Senate panel. The Chamber has been running a significant campaign in dozens of congressional districts across the country, and legislative staff members have been working with supporters in Congress on strategies to attach reauthorization to legislation. At least 60 other nations run 78 export credit agencies. Because Ex-Im is critical for U.S. global competitiveness, the Chamber continues making it a priority. 

Transportation and infrastructure

America’s transportation systems are outdated and overworked. The Chamber is leading the push for long-term infrastructure solutions 

  • The Chamber’s Americans for Transportation Mobility Coalition this spring sent letters to all members of Congress urging them to move forward on the Highway and Transportation Funding Act of 2015. The House and Senate later approved the measure, which extended the life of the federal government’s Highway Trust Fund and averted a potentially devastating halt to infrastructure projects. 
  •  The Chamber continues to advocate for long-term solutions to finance the Highway Trust Fund, which provides
  • the majority of financing for road, highway, and bridge construction projects. During America’s Small Business Summit in June, Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue urged Congress to consider a modest increase in the user fee, which hasn’t been upped since 1993.
  • Janet Kavinoky, Chamber executive director of transportation and infrastructure, illustrated the importance of promoting public-private partnerships in the transportation sector in testimony on April 23 before a Senate committee. Kavinoky and the Chamber have repeatedly said that those arrangements typically come in on time and under budget while shielding the government from investment risk. 

Cybersecurity

  • The Chamber continues to advocate for modern cybersecurity policies that promote a safe and secure future for American businesses. In July, the Chamber launched its Cybersecurity Leadership Council, a group of businesses and associations from a variety of sectors that will strive to influence and advance global cybersecurity policies that promote best practices and market-based solutions. By creating a forum for businesses to have an open dialogue about what is effective, missing, or needed regarding cybersecurity, the council will direct Chamber advocacy and education efforts and serve as a voice of industry for conversations with policymakers.
  • The Chamber applauded the House for passing the 
Protecting Cyber Networks Act (PCNA) and the National Cybersecurity Protection Advancement Act (NCPAA), both of which would create protections for companies that share information about cyberattacks and best practices with the government. Bruce Josten, Chamber executive vice president for government affairs, has repeatedly urged the Senate to move forward on similar measures.
  • The Chamber continues to educate the public and lawmakers on the importance of cybersecurity information-sharing legislation. On the heels of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) breach in June, Josten sent a letter to members of Congress saying that such legislation is necessary to help thwart future attacks and strengthen the nation’s and the business community’s detection, mitigation, and response capabilities.

Energy

The Chamber is urging Congress and the administration to take the needed steps to produce more American energy in an environmentally responsible matter.

  • Hydraulic fracturing has made the United States the world’s top oil and natural gas producer and has changed the energy discussion. Now is the time to end the 40-year- old oil export ban. Doing so would create almost 400,000 jobs, lower gasoline prices by putting more oil on the global market, and bolster economic growth. In testimony before a Senate panel on June 9, Karen Harbert, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, told lawmakers that lifting the ban on crude oil exports should be a top priority. The Chamber supports bipartisan bills in both the House and Senate 
to lift the ban and will play an active role with business leaders, local chambers, and civic groups.
  • The Chamber continues to educate members of Congress and the public about the Environmental Protection Agency’s overreaching carbon regulations on power plants. EPA argues that all aspects of a state compliance plan will become federally enforceable, thus bringing key aspects of electricity system oversight—long the purview of states—under its thumb. EPA wants states and private parties to be held legally liable for emissions reductions committed to under a state plan, opening the door for a storm of lawsuits from environmental groups using the Clean Air Act’s “citizen suit” provisions.

Regulatory Reform

The Chamber believes that Americans deserve a working regulatory system that evaluates the effect rules have on jobs and small businesses and protects our economic and personal freedoms.

  • EPA will release a stringent new ozone standard this
fall that will add another barrier for businesses wanting
to invest and create jobs. On June 29 in Chicago, the
U.S. Chamber, the Illinois Black Chamber of Commerce, and the National Black Chamber of Commerce hosted a symposium keynoted by Harry Alford, head of the National Black Chamber, on the economic and employment impacts of the ozone proposal in Chicago and on minority communities.
  • A new definition of federal bodies of water stretches federal authority over property beyond anything imagined by Congress. William Kovacs, Chamber senior vice president for Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs, told a House committee on June 4 that “the increase in federal regulatory authority under the waters rule likely will impact land uses, undermine and complicate state
and local programs, and delay or halt projects across the country.” The Chamber and other groups filed suit in July to stop the new waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule.

About the Authors

About the Author

J.D. Harrison
Executive Director, Communications & Strategy

J.D. Harrison is the Executive Director for Strategic Communications at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.