This week’s question to South Florida CEOs who are on the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: What issues do you hope lawmakers keep top-of-mind this election year?
I hope that lawmakers balance the allocation of the limited resources available and consider both the short- and long-term needs of the country.
John Benz, president, CEO, Community Care Plan
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There are two items of great concern: the manner in which we look at businesses and business owners, and the healthcare situation. I hope the current business-friendly mindset continues amongst lawmakers. Small- and mid-size businesses are the engine of our economy. When too many regulations and a less friendly business climate prevailed, such as during the past decade, many large corporations moved overseas. This was a huge loss of jobs, but most importantly, entrepreneurship stagnated because the small- and mid-size business owners do not have the possibility of moving overseas. We need to encourage entrepreneurship and the creation of many new jobs, which pay competitive wages. Healthcare needs to be addressed seriously to make sure that all working Americans have it. There should be more incentives for personal healthcare savings accounts. We need to have tort reform and we need to create pools of employees, perhaps according to the industry, to bid on insurance coverage to major providers in larger blocks. We also need to curtail the cost of medications.
Armando Caceres, CEO, founder, All Florida Paper
Funding for education is paramount. I hope legislators focus on increasing teacher salaries, investing in effective programs, and implementing safety initiatives in all of our schools.
Kelly-Ann Cartwright, executive partner, Holland & Knight Miami chair of the firm’s Directors Committee
That the U.S. both plays an important role in, and relies upon, the global economy. Barriers to international trade hurt the domestic consumer and diminish American companies’ ability to compete in foreign markets. Our economy greatly benefits from legislation that is pro-trade and reduces excessive regulation.
Ralph De La Rosa, president, CEO, Imperial Freight
Aside from the more hot-button topics like trade and healthcare, I’m hoping that lawmakers keep cyber-security in mind as well.
Jalal Farooq, principal, Al-Farooq Corporation
Climate change is an issue that affects everyone in our community. I hope lawmakers will take action to protect our environment, economy, and health from the risks of climate change and sea level rise. In addition, I hope to see greater investments made in research and higher education to prepare our students for the most dynamic labor market in history.
Dr. Julio Frenk, president, University of Miami
I hope that lawmakers keep in mind the importance of small businesses on our economy. The FDA is the biggest hindrance to U.S. small businesses. As one of the premium cigar manufacturers, we find the FDA’s ruling of the cigar industry overreaching and punitive. A premium cigar is made of tobacco but should not just be dumped in with all tobacco products with a one-size-fits-all regulation approach. The FDA has set a series of rules into effect that impose harmful regulations on the cigar industry, which is comprised of small businesses and could put upwards of 50 percent of the industry out of business. It is estimated brick and mortar retailers will leave the market in droves, costing thousands of jobs in an industry representing 30,000 jobs nationally and [that] is 94 percent small business. The government’s focus should be on supporting the small business owner and growing the economy.
Kaizad Hansotia, founder, CEO, Gurkha Cigars
School safety: We must provide a much safer environment for our kids. The economy: We need to find ways to create more skilled jobs so that we can continue to attract families to our area. The environment: Specifically, sea-level rise.
Javier Holtz, chairman, CEO, Marquis Bank
While there have been some positive steps taken to address sea-level rise, it is still an issue top-of-mind for South Floridians. If everyone — government officials, engineers, scientists, investors, and developers — work together, we will find solutions to preserve our coastlines and serve as a model for the rest of the country. At times, the best way to address national issues is to resolve them locally and set an example for the rest of the nation to follow. Other issues of critical importance to South Floridians continue to be investment in the public school system to improve school ratings and infrastructure, and public transit improvements.
Camilo Miguel Jr., founder, CEO, Mast Capital
The challenge of climate change and the environment; creating a policy of equality for all — including immigrants — that values the contributions of everyone to our society; and affordable healthcare for all Americans.
Deborah Spiegelman, CEO, Miami Children’s Museum
Our lawmakers’ number one job is to focus on the needs of our community and to invest in those areas. That means more listening, and finding consensus as opposed to focusing on partisan differences. Economic development, public safety, housing and education are in consistent need of policy attention.
Steve Upshaw, CEO, Cross Country Home Services
THE MIAMI HERALD CEO ROUNDTABLE IS A WEEKLY FEATURE THAT APPEARS IN BUSINESS MONDAY OF THE MIAMI HERALD. RECENT QUESTIONS HAVE INCLUDED