Americans continue to experience great hardship as our country weathers the worst economic storm since the Great Depression. Unfortunately for hard-working Floridians, the storm is far from over here in the Sunshine State. According to the state's chief economist, our unemployment is expected to reach historic levels in the coming months, hitting more than 12 percent.
Since the recession started two years ago, there have been more than 750,000 jobs lost in Florida and seven million shed nationwide. In the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area, unemployment is above the national average with 53,000 jobs lost last year alone.
How will we put Americans back to work? While the government can help create jobs in the short term, only America's business owners -- the dreamers, doers and innovators -- can create long-term growth.
That is why business leaders in South Florida are joining forces with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to endorse its American Free Enterprise Dream Big campaign. We are accepting the chamber's challenge: Generate 2,764,491 jobs during the next decade. This figure represents Florida's share of the 20 million jobs that economists say must be created nationwide in the next 10 years to recover those that were lost during this recession and employ new entrants to the workforce.
To meet this challenge we are calling on our leaders in Washington to enact policies that allow businesses to grow and thrive: policies that help educate, cultivate and equip the next generation of young entrepreneurs; and policies that free businesses from excessive taxes and onerous regulations. These policies will help strengthen our free enterprise system -- the system that has served as the foundation of America's prosperity and the only system capable of creating the jobs we need for the long haul.
With Washington taking a limited role in our economy, the foundation for meeting this challenge can be laid and America's 26 million small businesses can begin growing again. These entrepreneurs are America's everyday heroes, unparalleled in their ability to create jobs, spur local development and bring new products and services to market. During the last decade, small businesses created between 60 percent and 80 percent of all new jobs and, given the right business environment, can deliver big for job seekers once again.
The U.S. Chamber's campaign is aimed at engaging the Americans who share these dreams. This will be an ongoing dialogue about the benefits of our free enterprise system -- and about how to preserve this system so that America can continue to grow and prosper for generations to come.
As Floridians, we know more than most how to whether a storm and emerge from it stronger, and more resilient. Economic recovery will come from the bottom up, not from Washington down. The Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce is proud to pledge support for this campaign and lead our state's fight back to prosperity.
It's up to the American people -- all 300 million of us -- to outwork, outthink, and outdream our competitors. Today, our fight begins anew.
Dan Lindblade, CAE