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Not too long ago, entrepreneurship education was part of the curriculum of few university programs across the country. In 2003, the Kauffman Campuses initiative started to help seed cross-campus entrepreneurship programs at dozens of American universities, thereby allowing more young people to explore their entrepreneurial potential. Other universities have since moved in the same direction, bringing entrepreneurship education into the mainstream of learning by offering entrepreneurship courses and sponsoring extra-curricular activities, such as business plan competitions. Other institutions, like MIT, have gone even further by helping student scientists commercialize innovations.
Ahead of the Senate Finance Committee’s long-awaited vote on its health care bill, I thought it would be helpful to once more comment on its effect on our entrepreneurs. The status quo in healthcare undermines entrepreneurship: small businesses are paying a higher cost to offer health insurance to their employees because of the smaller size of their workforce and the lack of competition in the small group market. Some entrepreneurs are dropping this benefit entirely not because they don’t want to provide insurance to their employees, but because the survival of their startups requires it. According to one estimate, 52 percent of workers in businesses with less than 50 employees were uninsured or underinsured during 2007. Even worse, many potential entrepreneurs and the talent they need to launch their ventures feel trapped in jobs that offer affordable health coverage for themselves and their families.
I have always liked the story of the CEO who sends two shoe salesmen to Africa. When they report back, one says “Bad news, they don’t wear shoes here”. The other reports excitedly “Wonderful news boss, they have no shoes”.
The Doing Business 2010 report highlighted how the financial crisis has prompted governments to act in areas where regulatory reform may be more difficult and require more time. The report states that in times of recession, “the more quickly the assets of nonviable firms can be freed up, the easier it is to remobilize those assets.” While the U.S. remained ranked 4th in the 2010 ease of doing business list compared to its 2009 rank, other countries have implemented several reforms that improved their ranking. How has the EU fared?
For the past five years, the National Dialogue on Entrepreneurship has helped expand the discourse about how to best to advance innovation and catalyze economic growth beyond “small business” to debates on science, technology, engineering and research. While we will continue to advance discussion driven by developments in the all important innovation economy, the initiative will carry a new name - the Policy Dialogue on Entrepreneurship (PDE). PDE will pick up exactly where NDE left off -– broadening attention to the field of entrepreneurship and connecting thought leaders looking to advance it.
Congress is considering the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009. This new $825 billion economic stimulus package includes $275 billion in economic recovery tax cuts to individuals and businesses over two years, making it clear that the U.S. is relying heavily on entrepreneurs to jumpstart our economy. And they’re right to do so.
In the hopes to continue a much-needed conversation on how to revamp the economy, this week I would like to highlight another policy recommendation that emerged from the Kauffman Foundation’s State of Entrepreneurship address: reform immigration policy to attract migrants who want to start new companies and create jobs.
It is an important week for entrepreneurship in the Middle East. Here in Dubai, two important global summits will be convened by His Excellency, Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, United Arab Emirates Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and Carl Schramm, President of the Kauffman Foundation: The HCT Global Entrepreneurship 2010 Conference (E2010) and the Kauffman Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurship Congress which I will emcee.
At a time when we need risk-takers to start companies and create jobs, we need to do everything we can to remove unnecessarily burdensome regulations that dampen entrepreneurship. A high-impact, low-cost reform would be to make some of the more onerous requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 optional. This would permit companies whose shareholders don’t feel that the benefits of “SOX” requirements outweigh compliance costs to access public capital more quickly and less expensively. This kind of access to capital is critical for the survival of young firms, which have accounted for all net job growth in the United States in the past two decades.
The unemployment pressure does not appear to abate. Layoffs continue every day and despite massive government intervention for economic recovery, there is little evidence of anything more than a slow, prolonged recovery. It is time to give a payroll tax holiday for young firms.
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