WASHINGTON – The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Wednesday that the state of American business is improving and the nation’s economy is “gaining strength.”

In the annual State of American Business speech,  Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, opened on a positive note, saying the new year brings new opportunities, specifically by way of domestic energy production and stepped up international trade.

“Let business do more of both, and we’ll generate more jobs and income than any government program can deliver,” Donohue said.

Looking ahead, Donohue hopes to help establish a pro-business mentality on Capitol Hill and in the White House. He said the Chamber would  support candidates in mid-term elections who view business not as a problem, but “as part of the solution.”

“In 2014, the Chamber will work to protect and expand a pro-business majority in the House … and advance our influence in the Senate,” Donohue said. Republicans control the U.S. House; Democrats run the Senate.

Donahue also addressed  education and immigration reform, saying “it is a disgrace” to see children and workers falling behind.

He highlighted specific parts of the Chamber’s agenda, promising to push for bipartisan trade legislation.

“The global economy, beyond our borders, now has great impact,” he said.

Donohue spoke on the relationship the Chamber has with Congress, citing pieces of legislation the Chamber wants to revise such as the Dodd-Frank law and the Affordable Care Act.

Donohue said the final part of the Chamber’s 2014 agenda is to deal with the question of equality among all Americans.

“It’s all about opportunity,” Donohue said. “America’s promise is one of equal opportunity, not outcome.”

Those “who are struggling” for equal opportunity, Donohue said must have the education, incentives and opportunity to share in the prosperity that others are achieve. Donohue stressed the importance of improving education so young people graduate with the skills to succeed in the workforce.

“We can’t afford to fail,” he said.

At a news conference following Donahue’s speech, Martin Regalia, the Chamber’s chief economist,  said lawmakers need to look at the right statistics and find the right tools when addressing questions of income disparity in the U.S.  Extending unemployment benefits and raising the minimum wage won’t help, he said.