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Revisiting Two CEOs' Economic Outlook

Host Scott Simon catches up with two CEOs who shared their views on economy recovery and hiring trends a few months ago. In light of Friday's report, Simon speaks with Christopher M. Gorman, CEO of KeyBank in Cleveland, and Lynn Ann Casey, CEO at Arc Aspicio.

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Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A few months ago, we sat down with two chief executive officers to talk about their views on why many companies aren't hiring, what they think it might take to spur hiring. Given yesterday's jobs report that the unemployment rate has fallow to 7.8 percent, we thought we'd revisit the issue with those same CEOs. Chris Gorman is the CEO of the KeyBank in Cleveland and joins us from his office. Chris, thanks for being back with us.

CHRIS GORMAN: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: And Lynn Ann Casey is the CEO of Arc Aspicio, a management consulting and information technology company that she founded in Washington, D.C. It's focused on homeland security and intelligence. She joins us in our studios. Thank you very much for being with us.

LYNN ANN CASEY: It's nice to be here, Scott.

SIMON: We'll begin with you, Chris. In Cleveland, what do these numbers look like to you?

GORMAN: You know, I think the numbers are pretty good. The only area of some concern I think, Scott, is this U6 number, which of course is the unemployed and underemployed. That is stubbornly hanging in there at about 14.7 percent or so. But in total I think the numbers look pretty good.

SIMON: Lynn Ann?

CASEY: I think the numbers look good and they really match what we're finding is happening in our business today. We are definitely seeing an uptick in the work and we've been hiring more people, so it seems like the jobless numbers are reflecting what's happening on the ground in business here in Washington, D.C.

SIMON: Well, let me ask, 'cause you point that out. You're involved in homeland security, and I would just guess that that's a growth industry. Out in Cleveland with the Key Bank, Chris Gorman, are the companies that you're involved with hiring too?

GORMAN: I think we're in an inflection point. The first step, I think, in moving the economy forward is to stop the exit out the backdoor in terms of layoffs. And I think that has subsided. We haven't seen a lot of pick-up yet in companies hiring, but I really - I'm an optimist. I really think the economy is somewhat of a coiled spring right now.

SIMON: Lynn Ann Casey, I remember the last time you told us that sometimes, or not just sometimes, often when jobs came open in your industry, you couldn't find qualified people to fill them. Is that still the case?

CASEY: There are more candidates applying with a broader level of experience. Not all the candidates, however, meet all of the requirements for the jobs, so we're having to find more innovative ways to either provide training as an employer or we're looking for candidates who are taking on training on their own to demonstrate that they're willing to develop the skills you need if you hire them.

SIMON: When you with us during the summer, you gave advice to a hypothetical unemployed person, and said candidates had to find out what they were passionate about and show companies how their skills can help those companies. We got quite a few e-mails, and let me read you one from George Franks of Williamsport, Maryland. I think it's fair to say his comments were shared by a lot of listeners.

Mr. Frank says, quote, "Even at the most senior levels, any employee in today's workplace is more often viewed as an expendable commodity rather than an investment. Employers need qualified people who have skills, experience and a level of drive. Passion comes from the vision and leadership of the executive team. I believe you wrongly put the cart before the horse.

CASEY: You need passion in a leadership team and you need passion in every single employee that works for you. The more passionate they are about the business, the more that we're going to succeed as a team.

SIMON: I think the implication of what Mr. Franks said, and from a lot of listeners we heard from, was essentially saying you're expecting us to have passion when we know that the bottom line makes us expendable.

CASEY: That's not how we approach people at Arc Aspicio. It's a bit of a cynical view, I think. I know that most small businesses out there take every single employee they hire as an individual and they really value those individuals and what they contribute to the business. That's the way we have to work to serve our clients and that's the way we have to work to stay competitive.

SIMON: Let me ask you each at the end, if you could, to give us an idea or two that the government might undertake in the next few months that could be good for the economy and therefore increase hiring. Chris Gorman at the Key Bank?

GORMAN: Scott, I think the biggest thing government can do is for the government to come together and get things done for America. It's what people in poll after poll indicate that they want the government to do. And I believe our elected leaders will come through and make some of the decisions that need to be made to continue to position the United States for growth.

CASEY: The government needs to pass a budget. We need to get over the possibly or threat of sequestration. That will increase the confidence in the economy and really make things move forward.

SIMON: Lynn Ann Casey, the CEO of Arc Aspicio in Washington, D.C. and Chris Gorman, the CEO of the KeyBank in Cleveland. Thank you both for being back with us.

CASEY: Thank you, Scott.

GORMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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