America’s business is getting back to business

We are beginning to realize a coming peace dividend. Without ignoring or denying real challenges for our nation, there is more to be optimistic about than to fear this year.

As part of a delegation representing industries and business interests in the heartland, I recently had the opportunity to brief Obama administration officials at the White House in an important executive-to-executive dialogue through the White House Business Council. We exchanged ideas about strengthening our nation’s economy on topics from passing a responsible budget to immigration reform, corporate tax reform, infrastructure investment, workforce development, and many others raised by participants. The officials were all very receptive to ideas coming from industry and explained efforts the White House is pursuing to help businesses.  

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In preparing for the meetings, I realized that I am bullish on America and hope more of us feel that way this year. Setting aside our post-government-shutdown hangover, healthcare website complaints, and ever-present international turmoil, American businesses and investors have much more to be grateful for this Christmas season. If we follow good financial habits, reach out in commerce with open hands to our neighbors and show continued safety as the world’s leading economy we stand to remain in this growth position for a long time.

Let’s recount some of the items on a national security and economic gratitude list and look at some rays of further hope as we approach 2014.

In the past month the Dow Jones climbed above 16000 and the NASDAQ rose above 4000. Many analysts argue these are sustainable bull runs based on solid fundamentals. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are ending. Osama Bin Laden is dead and thousands of other terrorists have been killed or disrupted with minimal loss of American life.

As the American wars of the past decade wind down, hundreds of thousands of our own combat veterans are returning home to lead innovation, industrial growth and small business efforts across America. Their resilience, passion and can-do attitudes infect the businesses they support and the communities they live in.

Today, technologies that were initially funded with government defense research and development programs see commercial growth in market sectors that never existed before. Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and a host of peripheral social media app creators live and thrive solely as a result of what was once a specialized Pentagon project called ARPAnet. Air Force unmanned drone technologies and sensor systems that have saved lives through aerial reconnaissance in the past decade are moving into civilian fields where they will help farmers grow crops with greater precision and may someday help Amazon deliver goods to our doors even faster.

Other disruptive technologies like 3D printing, advanced materials science and enhanced interconnectedness have reduced the costs of increased process ingenuity. Recent breakthroughs in automation and efficiency stand to bring manufacturing jobs back onshore in the coming decade. America’s future assembly-lines may not look like they did in the 1960s, but the American industrial base of the early 21st century will be more efficient with higher outputs per worker than our international competitors. “Made in America” is going to mean increased quality and will be seen on more goods at home and abroad.

The middle class is recovering to pre-recession levels and real income is trending positively. We've seen 44 consecutive months of economic growth, and the American auto industry is headed back to private ownership on much more secure footing. Looking forward for fuel to sustain this positive trend, recent booms in domestic oil and natural gas production, along with advances in renewables and investment in nuclear technology likely set us up for true energy independence. In October, for the first time since 1995, the United States produced more crude oil than we imported.

When last year’s dysfunctional Congress is taken into consideration, direct public-private partnerships among the White House, governors, mayors and business leaders will be crucial in sustaining our growth. As the engines of prosperity in each district, business and state government leaders in America can help demand further legislative efforts to capitalize on opportunities for continued growth in 2013.

We can encourage every individual member of Congress to realize the opportunity for comprehensive immigration reform in 2014. If the House will just pass the key provisions of a bipartisan Senate bill in 2014, the economy could grow by up to $1.4 trillion in the coming decades while reducing our nation's deficit by nearly $1 trillion. We can add millions of new American citizens as legal, tax-paying wage-earners, and high tech employers will be better able to attract the world's top scientific talent to drive innovation-based industries.

Of course, the single greatest opportunity for strengthening America's young economic recovery will be a Congress that does not hold growth hostage to partisan gamesmanship. Continued federal budget stability and predictability will undoubtedly help restore the nation’s credit with international investors.

It finally feels like globalization of trade, advanced manufacturing efficiencies, emerging agricultural technologies, and increasing worldwide connectivity (started decades ago, by US government funded research) are combining to create unprecedented opportunities for positive political and economic ties that increase wealth and health for all people. We just need to demand that Congress manage our fiscal house, focus on our strengths and help open our nation’s arms to the world.

Borene participated in the 2013 White House Business Council. He is an attorney and an executive with experience in defense, robotics and big data. He is a U.S. Marine veteran of Iraq and on the Defense Council of the Truman National Security Project.

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