Women CEOs Say Debt Uncertainty and Regulation Hurt Job Growth

Women business leaders meeting with Republican lawmakers said tax burdens, duplicative government rules, an unskilled workforce and congressional deadlock on the deficit are hurting job creation and the economy.

“Like everyone else, we need certainty when we get up in the morning and go into the office and worry about how many people we are going to hire,” said Lisa Hook, chief executive officer of Neustar Inc., a provider of telephone and Internet directories based in Sterling, Virginia, at a panel discussion today in Washington.

“If we don’t have a budget resolution, if we don’t have a debt-ceiling resolution, that nevertheless impacts our stock,” Hook said at the roundtable discussion with women CEOs and female Republican House members on the economy and jobs.

She termed the impasse a “bipartisan problem.”

Concerns expressed included new regulations on banks that make it more difficult to access credit, a complex tax code and a need to invest more in training students in science, engineering, technology and math.

Alison Brown, CEO of Navsys Corp., a closely held company based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that develops global positioning system technology, said her company is having more trouble getting access to working capital.

“As a result of the Wall Street financial crisis, restrictions are being put on banks that are causing Main Street to suffer,” she said.

Product Development

Brown said that before the crisis she could invest in product development with “reasonable certainty” that she could get access to a line of credit to hire employees and purchase materials. “This is no longer the case, and this is a serious problem for any small business planning growth,” she said.

Uncertainly over budget cuts at the Department of Defense is also delaying contracts for her company, Brown said. “Fiscal 2012 is looking even grimmer.”

Brown, Hook and others called for a greater effort and investment to encourage students to study science and math because highly skilled jobs are going unfilled.

Catherine Heigel, president of Duke Energy South Carolina, said the company’s priorities include passage of a tax holiday for offshore profits brought back to the U.S.

“Duke Energy has over $1.2 billion in foreign earnings that currently sit offshore that we would very much like to bring back,” she said. “We would pay an effective tax rate of more than 50 percent on that money if we brought it back.”

Duke Energy Corp., based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is buying Progress Energy Inc. to become the largest U.S. utility owner.

Multinational companies including Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp. are urging Congress to make passing a measure to allow a tax break on their offshore profits a greater priority than a tax-code overhaul.

The panel was moderated by Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Washington Republican and vice chair of the House Republican Conference.

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