To be sure, the new rules hit very close to home. As president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), I’m responsible for organizing the largest trade show in the Americas – the International CES. Attracting as many as 150,000 attendees – 30,000 from abroad – the International CES is a mecca of entrepreneurs, small-business owners, industry leaders, and, yes, U.S. and foreign government employees.
The International CES serves as a crossroads for all elements of the industry, which include a federal government that regularly makes decisions that affect the industry and all Americans who use technology in their lives. We invite government employees to see the latest trends, meet the up-and-coming visionaries, and learn about the future of American consumer electronics. Prohibiting their attendance will only stifle the free-flow of information between the public and private sectors that is vital to economic growth.
More important, the new rules will further cut off the Obama Administration – and future administrations – from the business community. At a time of nine percent unemployment, business and government need to work together for the benefit of American workers. Conferences and trade shows are an ideal time for this meeting of the minds to take shape; to have both sides listen to each other; and learn what the other needs to help grow our economy.
Building a permanent wall between business and government seems to be the goal of an administration that has practically no one in its highest levels with any familiarity in running a business. This isolation is apparent in the failure of the Obama Administration to implement policies that actually lead to employment growth. Both by his words and his actions, President Obama has closed the door to any advice from the business community. How are you supposed to spur job creation when you aren’t talking to the job creators?
Our top national issue is jobs, and the fastest-growing businesses that create jobs rely on trade shows to display innovative products, meet buyers and attract investors. The government plays an important role in facilitating and even helping host these events, which attract visitors from all over the world, including investors and important government officials from other countries. We need to stop making business the enemy of government and make them a partner in job creation and economic growth.
Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies.