How can we best support the middle market? For starters:
Fix the skills gap. This is critical for the middle market to succeed, and thankfully is one area that Republicans and Democrats agree needs attention. For any meaningful change to happen, our country as a whole must change the way it looks at education (both college and vocational). We need to create state and national government programs or provide incentives to private industry to reduce unemployment with technical skills via vocational programs. Those who cannot or do not wish to attend universities should have access to better programs at affordable costs. The debt that many people are stuck with after graduating from universities or completing vocational school training is equally problematic and deserves attention. Our universities could also provide more targeted job training for positions that middle-market businesses need.
Address healthcare costs. We will find out shortly whether Obamacare will help improve availability and cost of healthcare. This is still a major concern to business. Although the jury is still out, we must keep a close pulse on this issue and make immediate changes if things do not seem to be heading in the right direction.
Improve the tax code. Our government should simplify the tax code and also provide more incentives in terms of tax abatement and hiring credits for middle-market businesses. We also need to level the playing field between large and middle-market companies as it pertains to taxes.
Increase the availability of capital, particularly growth capital that would be accessible to the middle market. While the new JOBS Act has lots of potential, it’s early in its life.
Increase the availability of debt for middle-market businesses. This will go a long way toward fueling the growth and continued success of these businesses. The continued availability of Small Business Investment Company money and its continuation are a must.
Promote the middle market. Offer more support via trade fairs as well as assistance from organizations like our chambers of commerce and The Beacon Council. These organizations could work together to promote middle-market companies and help them garner business from customers outside South Florida.
Stimulate local manufacturing. Help bring more manufacturing to South Florida. This will help reduce unemployment as well as increase business for suppliers.
Immigration. Reduce skills deficiencies by making it easier for foreigners with the necessary skills to obtain visas.
Without a doubt, the middle market warrants our attention and support. Rather than complaining about the economy or waiting for things to happen, we should all roll up our sleeves and do something about it by supporting the middle-market. Let us not forget: the middle market is the principal driver of our economy, and a strong economy benefits us all.
James S. Cassel is co-founder and chairman of Cassel Salpeter & Co., LLC, an investment-banking firm with headquarters in Miami that works with middle-market companies. www.casselsalpeter.com