The nation's small businesses had much to hope for following President Barack Obama's inaugural State of the Union address.
In a 68-minute speech focused primarily on job creation, Obama called for an increase in lending to the nation's smaller firms, as well as an increase in exports and business tax incentives to spur the nation's stagnant employment numbers.
"When you talk to small business owners...you find out that even though banks on Wall Street are lending again, they're mostly lending to bigger companies," said the President. "Financing remains difficult for small business owners across the country, even those that are making a profit. So tonight, I'm proposing that we take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks have repaid and use it to help community banks give small businesses the credit they need to stay afloat."
Obama also proposed a tax credit for small businesses that hire new staff or raise wages. "While we're at it, let's also eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and provide a tax incentive for all large businesses and all small businesses to invest in new plants and equipment," he added.
Later in the speech, the President turned to exports, which have remained one of the only reliable bright spots throughout the recession. "We will double our exports over the next five years, an increase that will support two million jobs in America," said Obama. "To help meet this goal, we're launching a National Export Initiative that will help farmers and small businesses increase their exports, and reform export controls consistent with national security." A doubling of exports had previously been listed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as one of the association's keys to job recovery in 2010.
To reach the ambitious new trade goal, Obama suggested continued work on global agreements as well as stringent enforcement of already existing ones. "If America sits on the sidelines while other nations sign trade deals, we will lose the chance to create jobs on our shores," he said. "But realizing those benefits also means enforcing those agreements so our trading partners play by the rules. And that's why we'll continue to shape a Doha trade agreement that opens global markets."
"We will strengthen our trade relations in Asia and with key partners like South Korea and Panama and Colombia," Obama added, stopping short of endorsing the full-scale approval of the nation's three pending Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. Business leaders and the U.S. Chamber have repeatedly called on the administration and Congress to approve all pending FTAs in addition to implementing new ones.
Not all things international were endorsed by the President in his address, and most notably when it came to labor, Obama suggested that outsourcing and offshoring companies may face a less friendly tax code in the future should they continue to create jobs in other countries at the expense of jobs created here. "To encourage businesses to stay within our borders, it is time to finally slash the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas, and give those tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the United States of America," said Obama.
Jacob Barron, NACM staff writer