Engine began #StartupsEverywhere to tell the stories of thriving startup ecosystems that have sprung up in every corner of the country. Over the past year, we’ve profiled 35 cities in 33 different states, with the goal of completing all 50. Now, we want to share the lessons we’ve learned to help other communities transform themselves into emerging centers of innovation and to educate policymakers on how they can contribute to the process. This blog series will expand upon some of the inputs, best practices, and policies that regularly appear in our profiles. A special thanks to Quorum for providing the data and analytics for this post.
Last week, the 55th annual National Small Business Week (NSBW) was celebrated on main streets across the country. While Linda McMahon, Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) was the master of ceremonies for a week of programming that sought to empower and educate entrepreneurs, she wasn’t the only one in Washington talking about the economic importance of the 30 million startups and small businesses nationwide. Policymakers from both sides of the aisle expressed support for measures that promote entrepreneurship and provide small business owners with the resources they need to succeed.
Some legislators, like Reps. Betty McCollum (MN-4) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-1), highlighted how crucial the entrepreneurial economy is for job creation and retention in their states. In Minnesota, small businesses employ 1.2 million people or 47.9 percent of the state’s workforce whereas in New Mexico, over half of the state’s workforce relies on self-employment or jobs created by small businesses. Since 2012, small businesses and startups (with fewer than 500 employees) have created 62 percent of net new private-sector jobs.
Others, by contrast, used the platform of NSBW to underscore policies and programs that are essential to the growth of small businesses and startups in their states and districts. Among the most popularly discussed was the SBA’s national network of Women’s Business Centers, which are designed to assist female entrepreneurs in launching and scaling new ventures. On the policy side, Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-17) noted the nearly 6,000 small businesses and startups that rely on net neutrality protections to be able to compete in the digital marketplace while Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5) highlighted the benefits the December 2017 tax bill provides entrepreneurs.
The popularity of NSBW demonstrates the value that startups and small businesses create in their communities and the need for policymakers to care about the issues that impact startup growth. While there is disagreement about the specific steps that need to be taken, it is clear that all lawmakers support enabling innovation. To learn more about entrepreneurial ecosystems and the policies that contribute to their growth, check out Engine’s weekly #StartupsEverywhere blog series.