Jun 13, 2021 - Economy

U.S. Chamber CEO Suzanne Clark calls worker shortage "tragic"

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Suzanne Clark told me for "Axios on HBO" that she finds the Biden administration "easy to talk to. They're easy to reach. They're professional."

  • "But sometimes they give us bad news very efficiently and quickly," she said with a laugh.

The big picture: The chamber, the world’s largest business lobby, is having success under President Biden on promoting infrastructure spending, but opposes his planned tax increases.

  • "I think it comes down to having different economic philosophies, right?" she said. "The American business community believes this is a moment of growth."

Clark, who took over in March as the first woman CEO in the chamber's 109-year history, has made the worker shortage a top issue, and recently launched a program she calls "Operation Warp Speed for jobs."

  • "Look, this is the biggest economic challenge of our time," she said. "I went to Rehoboth over the weekend, took my teenager to the beach. And the number of restaurants, the number of small businesses that have restricted their hours, that aren't serving lunch, or aren't open at all because of the workforce shortage is tragic."

I asked Clark: In the past when people thought of the Chamber of Commerce, they thought of a boys' club, and now you're the boss. What's it been like to be in so many rooms full of white middle-aged dudes?

  • "Well, you know, I'm married to a white middle-aged dude, so they're kind of my people," she joked.

But she said the conversation now is that "as the world gets more diverse, ... what it's like to have all of these rooms open up. And there is strength in diversity."

  • "I think the Chamber has a long way to go," she added, "particularly in getting more Black and brown people to work here."
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