Thaddeus Swanek Thaddeus Swanek
Senior Writer and Editor, Strategic Communications, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


January 19, 2021


What happened? In the annual State of American Business speech last week, U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donohue outlined the path for a widespread economic recovery through a bold agenda of infrastructure investments, workforce reskilling, immigration reforms, and reinvigorating America’s global competitiveness. Additionally, he warned that excessive regulations and anti-competitive taxes would undermine the recovery.

To complement the speech, the U.S. Chamber developed three State of American Business Policy Power Hours highlighting common-sense policy solutions for strengthening the recovery on the international, national, and state/local levels.

In the third of three Policy Power Hours, Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber and Tom Sullivan, vice president of small business policy, led discussions about the challenges facing small businesses including overburdensome state regulations.

Also, Harold Kim, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, hosted discussions on trends in state and municipal legal climates.

Fill me in: The 50 states and the District of Columbia aren’t just laboratories for democracy — they also serve as proving grounds for businesses of all sizes. Increasingly, states are competing to attract and retain businesses and the most talented workers. The first panel discussion featured a small business which relocated across state lines in search of a better business environment.

A second panel focused on the ways state chambers of commerce are working to attract business and investment while expanding economic opportunity in their communities. A final panel focused on the way excessive litigation can drive up the cost of living—and conducting business—for everyone.

Key quotes:

On small businesses, over-regulation, and the war for talent.

  • “We converted to using independent contractors and that was driven a lot by the regulations in California that are hindering the ability of companies to operate and grow…It was almost like the state of California was constantly tightening the screws and making things more and more difficult.” — Russell Dunn, owner, Maid In Texas
  • “We relocated here [to Texas] in 2017 in June, for both personal and business reasons. It’s just a more open environment to operate in Texas.” — Dunn
  • “One of the ironies in California is that we’ve created these [technology] platforms that enable people to work anywhere…We can lose our jobs to rural Alabama because if they have the right Broadband, they’re going to be able to compete with the talent...One of our agendas is to make sure that we retain that talent.” – Allan Zaremberg, president and CEO, California State Chamber of Commerce

On how state chambers are working to spread prosperity far and wide.

  • “One of the things that we’re doing here in [New Jersey] is helping some of our other chamber and business associations diversify their boards, putting more Blacks on their boards to get a different perspective…In order to improve the competitiveness not only of New Jersey, but of America, we need to have more diversity around the table, but once they get around the table they must speak up.” — John Harmon, founder, president, and CEO, African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey
  • “About 41% of our population live in rural communities and it’s important that they have access to high-speed Internet. If we want to have 21st century workforce and jobs, we have to have 21st century infrastructure.” — Katie Boyd Britt, president and CEO, Business Council of Alabama

On “jackpot justice” and excessive litigation.

  • “We [Louisiana] have a reputation for a poor legal climate and I wish I could say it was undeserved…Over the years, we have allowed a legal climate to grow and fester here that has chased away jobs and investment and it has increased costs for consumer goods all across the state. It’s a frustration.” — Stephen Waguespack, president, Louisiana Association of Business and Industry
  • “Louisiana has the second-highest car insurance rates in the country…The reason why is pretty simple: There has traditionally been a system here of ‘jackpot justice’ which drives those rates up. Traditionally, in Louisiana it’s very easy for an attorney to file an aggressive lawsuit on a fender bender, get in front of the judge of their choosing, keep the jury out the court room, keep certain parts of evidence out of that courtroom…It creates an environment where an insurance company is forced to settle at a very high rate…It ends up going into the rates we all pay.” — Waguespack

What’s next: Explore the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 priorities. The new year and the vaccine rollout bring renewed hope, and we are optimistic about the economy’s future. As always, sound public policy can support faster growth and job creation and a more broad-based economic recovery, while misguided policies will hold back our nation

From infrastructure legislation to immigration reform to new rules for the digital economy, the U.S. Chamber 2021 Priorities Booklet highlights the Chamber’s key policy priorities to help rebuild our economy, communities, and nation in 2021 and beyond.

Additional Resources

About the authors

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus Swanek

Thaddeus is a senior writer and editor with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's strategic communications team.

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