On January 24th 2010, New York Times Columnist Thomas L. Friedman wrote an op-ed piece titled, “More (Steve) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs, Jobs ,” which gave advice to President Obama as he puts the finishing touches on this week’s State of the Union speech.
He wrote “We need to make 2010 what Obama should have made 2009: the year of innovation, the year of making our pie bigger, the year of “Start-Up America.”
He went on further to say, “Obama should make the centerpiece of his presidency (this year) mobilizing a million new start-up companies that won’t just give us temporary highway jobs, but lasting good jobs that keep America on the cutting edge.”
Well Mr. Friedman, I believe you are spot on. While your editorial largely focused on exposing youth to entrepreneurship, which is absolutely needed, I think there should be a two-pronged approach with a focus on working professionals and academic innovators who are ready to start businesses right now.
The fact that the 2009 stimulus package and TARP funds did not have any real provision that trickled down to small businesses was criminal. According to the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, small businesses have been responsible for 60 to 80 percent of annual job creation since the 1990s, creating 79 percent of net new jobs in 2005. Thus, supporting the small business economy will fix the American economy.
I would like to join with Mr. Friedman in calling on President Obama and his Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to pull together the nation’s small business thought-leaders, top entrepreneurs, the Center for Women’s Business Research and micro-business leaders to talk about what is needed to help start-up businesses now. In advance of this meeting, I would like to offer a few suggestions to get the ball rolling quickly.
- Provide wage subsidies for small businesses to create jobs.
- Provide a temporary payroll tax exemption to small companies less than three years old.
- Work with the Small Business Development Centers and the Minority Business Development Agency offices nationwide to fund Become Your Own Boss Bowls (Business Plan Competitions) with meaningful cash prizes, free office space for one year and at least fifty percent of the award’s value in technical support.
- Increase federal funding to the alternative capital markets such as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI’s) and Community Development Corporations (CDC’s) by 500% and mandate that all loans or grant support come with technical support in financial management and marketing.
- Increase funding for SBIR and STTR federal grants and relax the regulations which restrict participation firms from accepting additional venture capital funds.
- Provide tax credits for “Green incentives” for small businesses that invest in environmentally sound facilities and energy-efficient manufacturing and business practices.
- Continue and expand the entire range of SBA loan programs.
- Work with policy leaders to provide incentives to pension funds and other public fund managers to invest in private equity and venture funds that are especially targeting minority and women business owners for early-stage seed capital and mezzanine funding.
I offer these ideas as thought starters with the hope that maybe just a few become last minute lines added to the President’s agenda to get the American economy humming again.