Lawmakers use recess break to learn more about local startups

Although Congress has been on recess for the past two weeks, that hasn’t stopped lawmakers from connecting with startups and entrepreneurs back home. At least six representatives and one senator toured startup facilities, spoke with and profiled small business owners, or otherwise learned more about the entrepreneurial endeavors of their constituents.  

Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.)

Guest, a freshman Republican who represents Mississippi’s 3rd congressional district, visited the Mississippi State University Idea Shop in Starkville last week “to better understand what we can do in Washington to promote small businesses.” The Idea Shop, operated by MSU’s College of Business and School of Human Sciences, serves an incubator for entrepreneurs to develop and grow their businesses.

“I’m proud to support locally owned businesses,” Guest told Engine in a statement. “They create jobs, invoke a sense of pride in the community, and reinvest in the local economy.”

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.)

Haaland, a freshman Democrat from New Mexico’s 1st congressional district, last week visited small business development and training organization WESST to learn more about the nonprofit’s efforts to grow entrepreneurship across the state--particularly among underserved communities.  

Haaland told Engine in a statement that new startups “face challenges with access to capital and resources to help them build their businesses.”

“Effective incubation like WESST provides for low income entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs of color, and is one solution to build long term success,” Haaland added.

Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa)

Freshman Rep. Abby Finkenauer has a busy recess meeting with entrepreneurs across Iowa’s first congressional district, including visiting with entrepreneurs and local chambers of commerce in Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Waterloo.

“It’s important that Congress understands that, when we talk about innovation, we’re not just talking about the Coasts,” Finkenauer said in a statement to Engine. “We need to make sure that we’re focused on developing our workforce, improving broadband, connecting entrepreneurs with SBA resources—all things that help our small businesses thrive in rural areas and across the country.”

Finkenauer chairs the House’s Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship subcommittee.

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska)

Young, Alaska’s at-large representative and Dean of the House, met with several companies last week that make up part of the state’s innovative mariculture industry. One of these visits included meeting with Markos Scheer, the CEO of startup Premium Aquatics.

Young’s office said the congressman toured one of the company’s facilities that is under construction, and also discussed the startup’s ambitions and operations. Young’s office added that the congressman believes Southeast Alaska represents a potential “bread basket” for the country with its cultivation potential.

Joe Courtney (D-Conn.)

Rep. Courtney, who represents Connecticut’s 2nd congressional district, profiled Brittany Molkenthin, the founder and CEO of startup Lactation Innovations, during a recent “Constituent Corner” profile on Instagram. Molkenthin created a new medical device for helping to measure the breastmilk intake of babies during feedings.

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.)

Massie, who represents Kentucky’s 4th congressional district, spoke at the Acela CBD BioMedical Community Day ribbon-cutting ceremony in Maysville last week. Acela CBD is a local startup that works with Kentucky farms to supply them with ingredients, including industrial hemp, for use in their products.

Massie, who has long supported industrial hemp legislation, said in a Facebook post that it was “exciting to see how the new industrial hemp industry has boosted the economy in Kentucky.”

Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nev.)

Sen. Cortez Masto last week toured the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center and met with business owners and entrepreneurs who call the facility home. The center, billed as the largest industrial park in the world, is home to approximately 130 companies.

“I’m glad to see these innovative companies are also drawing even more businesses to the Silver State, and I’ll do all I can to support the technology, manufacturing and distribution industries that make us the Innovation State,” Cortez Masto said in a Facebook post.