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We have long argued that the American model for development assistance could improve dramatically if entrepreneurship becomes a stronger element of economic development efforts. Unfortunately, the importance of new firm creation is a concept that has yet to gain relevance in traditional development models, such as the Washington Consensus. However, there are a few actors who understand the power of entrepreneurship and have been using it to improve lives. Diaspora entrepreneurs are using their experience and understanding about entrepreneurship to invest in new ventures in their country of origin. These transnational entrepreneurs view a globe of porous borders.
When President Obama will deliver his first State of the Union address is still unclear. However, with 80 percent of the population believing that new economic growth and jobs will come from entrepreneurs, discussion around what his address should include in terms of policies that encourage new start-ups is already underway.
So we know that entrepreneurs are the primary engines of job creation in the United States. Research study after research study has confirmed that it is young firms that drive improvements in the employment situation. From 1980–2005, firms less than five years old accounted for all net job growth in the country. In 2007 alone, young firms (1-5 years old) accounted for nearly two-thirds of job creation. We also know more than half of the companies on the 2009 Fortune 500 list were launched during a recession or bear market, along with nearly half of the firms on the 2008 Inc. list of America’s fastest-growing companies. In light of all this evidence and in face of the employment crisis in the country, how can we truly support the entrepreneurs behind these young firms?
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.
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.
Today, I would like to discuss the education-related recommendations outlined at the Kauffman Foundation’s State of Entrepreneurship address. We have long been aware that American education is struggling to stay competitive. We also know that the development of entrepreneurial skills, such as opportunity recognition and prudent risk taking, are not prioritized in most U.S. educational institutions. Developing tomorrow’s talented, capable innovators is a challenge that will require entrepreneurially-driven improvements in education at all levels.
Haitians have received help from governments, the private sector and the philanthropic community around the world to deal with the awful devastation, but the long term goal of rebuilding a nation and constructing institutions from scratch will require sustained commitment to the country. I can’t think of a better group to enlist in this task than Haitian entrepreneurs. The needs of the businesses affected in this region are extraordinary, but so is their potential to become agents for restoration.
Last June, President Obama announced in Cairo, Egypt that the U.S. government will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship to identify how we can deepen ties between leaders, foundations, and entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Muslim communities around the world. Throughout April leading up to the April 26th summit, I will comment on the state of entrepreneurship in some of the nations participating which I will be attending in the hope of prompting further observations from readers.
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