There’s no sense in denying it, these are difficult times economically. Unemployment is stubbornly high, our fractious government can’t seem to agree on how to address our economic troubles, the global economy is in peril, and every day brings more dispiriting news. Some argue that large companies, sitting on huge stockpiles of cash, will be the answer once consumer demand rebounds but how will it rebound with so many people unemployed and with wages for the employed stagnant or receding? The answer is in the application of our entrepreneurial spirit. The environment is ripe for it, but it will require a push.
It’s time to build. The time has come for political ideologues to set aside their pitchforks for a moment and take steps to create a National Infrastructure Bank. From our schools to our roadways to our mass transit systems to our energy and communication grids we are falling into dangerous disrepair and perhaps worse, lagging behind other developed countries. Such a bank would require relatively little government investment, as private investment would surely follow, and would build a scalable model of employment growth. Not only would it create an untold number of new jobs in the near term, but it would create an avenue for experienced but currently unemployed or underemployed craftsmen to open their own businesses. The resulting economic stimulus borne of an invigorated infrastructure is incalculable. Money remains an inexpensive commodity in this country – why not help put our skilled labor to work under its own flag of ownership?
Remove the fear. The Affordable Care Act has inspired much debate, but if not repealed or diluted it offers an extraordinary opportunity. The rising cost of health care is a concern for all of us and likely has a deterring effect on people starting their own business. A RAND study published last fall found that 4 percent of all men earning wages or salaries start a business. Within that group, however, men whose health insurance came through a spouse started businesses at twice the frequency of those with their own employer coverage. The same study indicated that there was a surge of business starts in the month that men turn 65 and are eligible for Medicare; the phenomenon did not occur in any other month between ages 55 and 65. It seems clear that the promise of guaranteed affordable health care spurs small business starts
Make unemployment pay. Extending unemployment benefits in times such as these is a necessity, but there should be strings attached. It’s not enough that benefits are tied to efforts to find a job. Create robust re-training programs and offer entrepreneurial education and resources as a mandatory component of the unemployment support programs. Relative to potential reward, the investment is minimal.
Vote for the little guy. Push lawmakers to address Small Business concerns as a top-tier priority. Washington has the clout to influence the business environment. Any conversation about business regulation or taxation has to start with making it easier and more potentially profitable to start a new business. Big business has a 20-year track record of failing to create jobs in numbers that impact our economy – it’s time to let the little guy have a try.
Small businesses account for a distressingly small percentage of employment in the United States. We in fact lag well behind most of the developed world in small business development. How can that be? We have the resources, we have the spirit – all we need is the push. Many small businesses will fail, but how many Googles or Facebooks, and all the ancillary businesses they spawn, does it take to impact our economy? The answer is very few.
We have never been in such dire need of innovation and creation. The situation is daunting, but we are a resilient breed. Unleash the entrepreneurs!