Back in the 1910s, my Grandpa Jack was working in a shoe store, but he had bigger aspirations. So, he put a few machines in the back of the store and made socks and stockings on the side. As business picked up, he started building his own textiles factories, one of which I worked at during college.
Grandpa Jack’s story shows how America’s entrepreneurs have always been critical to driving prosperity. They start businesses, drive innovation, and create good jobs. Unfortunately, the recession led to a drop of about 100,000 new businesses created. That’s a problem because we know that new businesses are a major factor in increasing employment.
Today, we need to do everything possible to clear the way for entrepreneurs to go ahead and start that business. One critical way to do that is to reduce barriers that get in their way.
To understand more about these barriers, the Small Business Administration recently traveled around the country to talk to more than 1,000 entrepreneurs, investors, and others who want to play a role in building the next great American companies. A summary of their great ideas is in our new report, Startup America: Reducing Barriers, which highlights five areas:
- People. We need to attract and retain the best entrepreneurial workforce in the world.
- Money. We need to help startups and high-growth firms access the kinds of capital they need to create jobs.
- Ideas. We need to transform more of America’s discoveries and breakthroughs into commercial success.
- Customers. We need to ensure that small firms can compete for customers in all sectors and abroad.
- Lean government. We need to make the U.S. Government work better for entrepreneurs, such as making it faster, simpler, and easier to navigate.
The best part is, we’re already implementing some of the ideas that these entrepreneurs recommended.
For example, we want the world’s brightest minds to stay in the U.S. and create good jobs. The entrepreneur community told us that too many are leaving because our visa system didn’t work well for them. That’s why the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service recently announced revisions to some visa programs to allow entrepreneurs with advanced degrees or specialized expertise to stay here in order to start and grow great job-generating companies.
And the entrepreneurs I met in places like Boston reminded me that simple, common-sense changes can make a big difference.
For example, 11 federal agencies currently drive more than $2 billion in grants each year into small firms that do cutting-edge research and development through the Small Business Innovation Research program. This program helps transform new inventions into commercial success. Instead of making small firms search all 11 agency websites for opportunities, small businesses can now simply go to sbir.gov, where they can find all of the opportunities in one single location.
We can implement many of the ideas we heard through the Obama Administration alone, but there are several ideas that will need support from Congress. Other ideas will need the help of private-sector leaders such as the Startup America Partnership, led by Steve Case, Scott Case, and a new board that includes Magic Johnson, Michael Dell, Fred Smith, Tory Burch, Carl Schramm, and others. We are working with all of them—and we will continue to get ideas and feedback directly from entrepreneurs—to make sure America’s job creators are getting what they need to help us out-build, out-compete, and out-innovate the rest of the world.
My hope is that even more entrepreneurs will be inspired like I was when my Grandpa Jack told me and my sisters, "Gordons don’t work for anyone else. They work for themselves. You have to start a business. That’s what we do." America has always been the land of opportunity. Let’s keep removing barriers in order to make more opportunities happen for America’s 21st century job creators.
Author Karen Gordon Mills is the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration
[Image: Flickr user lumierefl]