The Business Council

The Business Council Background

In 1933 Secretary of Commerce Daniel C. Roper decided that he could benefit from the advice and counsel of public-spirited leaders of demonstrated success in their conduct of business affairs. The idea had been formulated by investment banker Sidney J. Weinberg, who felt that the government had relatively little business expertise at its disposal when it made decisions affecting that segment of society. After discussing the idea with some of his business acquaintances, Mr. Roper selected about 50 executives who agreed to serve without compensation of any kind as members of a new Business Advisory Council for the Department of Commerce.

In making those first selections, Mr. Roper established a principle which has been followed ever since. He questioned no one's politics, insisting that only personal integrity, ability, experience and a willingness to serve the public interest be considered qualifications.

From its inception the Council was determined to represent no formal constituency. Its opinions represented the collective judgment of a group of experienced business leaders who had also demonstrated their interest in the general welfare by participation in public and social issues.

The Council's first major assignment was to form the Industrial Advisory Board for the National Recovery Administration, to advise and assist in resolving pressing problems of the nation's recovery from the Great Depression. Simultaneously, the Council established a number of committees to address such issues as the Securities and Exchange Act, the Banking Act and the Social Security Act.

Council members worked closely with public officials responsible for those milestone policy enactments to help resolve the challenges of implementing the new laws. Another field in which the Council became active was labor relations, providing insights on policy and administrative issues.

The Council continued its role as an advisory body primarily to the Department of Commerce until 1961 when members decided to broaden its scope. Council members felt that they should be available to serve all areas of government which requested their services. The action was welcomed by President John F. Kennedy who said that "the various government agencies would be glad to have such a group available for consultation." Renamed The Business Council, it serves as an independent forum for the interchange of ideas and the development of positive, practical recommendations for action.

Since its formation, the Council has been called upon by Presidents in turn for counsel and advice. The Council has also served regularly as a de facto reservoir of experienced talent to assist an administration in carrying out its public mandate. During the critical years of the Second World War, for example, more than 50 Council members were called into government service to assist in meeting the tremendous challenges facing the nation. Subsequent years have seen many Council members leave private life to serve in critical positions within government at the request of Presidents from both parties. Today, as it has for many years, the Council numbers among its members many business leaders who are serving in various roles as public servants. And from its membership the Council has provided experienced business leaders as voluntary leaders for a variety of special panels and commissions that help develop policy for the federal government.

The Business Council limits itself to 150 Active members, each of whom is selected on the basis of personal qualities and position as the chief executive officer of a leading private sector business from commerce and industry. The Council seeks a wide representation of business leaders, both from a broad range of industrial and service sectors as well as from a geographical basis. There are no political qualifications for membership.

FORMER CHAIRMEN

1933 Gerard Swope 1971-72 William M. Batten
1934 S. Clay Williams 1973-74 David Packard
1934-35 Henry P. Kendall 1975-76 Edmund W. Littlefield
1936 George H. Mead 1977-78 John D. deButts
1937-39 W. Averell Harriman 1979-80 Reginald H. Jones
1940-41 William L. Batt 1981-82 Walter B. Wriston
1942-43 R. R. Deupree 1983-84 Clifton C. Garvin, Jr.
1944-45 Thomas B. McCabe 1985-86 Ruben F. Mettler
1946 George M. Humphrey 1987-88 S.D. Bechtel, Jr.
1947-48 John L. Collyer 1989-90 Roger B. Smith
1949-50 James S. Knowlson 1991-92 John F. Welch, Jr.
1951-52 Robert T. Stevens 1993-94 Robert E. Allen
1953 John D. Biggers 1995-96 Edgar S. Woolard, Jr.
1954-55 Harold Boeschenstein 1997-98 Larry Bossidy
1956-57 Eugene Holman 1999-00 Ralph S. Larsen
1958-59 S. D. Bechtel 2001-02 William T. Esrey
1960-61 Ralph J. Cordiner 2003-04 Charles O. Holliday, Jr.
1961-62 Roger M. Blough 2005-06 Jeffrey R. Immelt
1963-64 F. R. Kappel 2007-08 W. James McNerney, Jr.
1965-66 W.B. Murphy 2009-10 James W. Owens
1967-68 Albert L. Nickerson 2011-12
James Dimon
1969-70 Fred J. Borch 2013-14 Andrew N. Liveris
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