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An Entrepreneurial Win for the Future

Thom Ruhe, Director of Entrepreneurship, The Kauffman Foundation

President Obama visited Northeast Ohio this week with several of his cabinet secretaries in tow. The motivation for the visit was the extension of comments he made during this year's State of the Union address to focus on expanding entrepreneurial activities. The visit itself,  part of the administration’s Winning the Future Forum on Small Business, was equal parts pep rally, breakout sessions, and various program announcements. For a part of our country that has worked hard to shed vestiges of the rustbelt, his visit – and his reference to the region’s efforts to reinvent itself as the techbelt – was a nice affirmation that considerable community efforts to do so have not been in vain.

I was fortunate enough to participate in the festivities and was present for the roundtable discussion on entrepreneurship. President Obama was joined by SBA Secretary Karen Mills and Startup America Partnership Chair (and AOL cofounder) Steve Case. Over the half-hour discussion with the President, we talked about issues facing entrepreneurs ranging from regulatory matters, access to capital, mentoring, and investment incentives. I was impressed by the genuine dialogue that took place, including some tough questions that were answered with specific facts and examples.

One of the good ideas announced was the launch of Innovation Fund America: providing funding and talent for high-tech entrepreneurs when they need it most. "America was built on the persistence and ingenuity of entrepreneurs. To remain globally competitive, we must rekindle this spirit through innovative public-private partnerships," said Dr. Roy Church, President of Lorain County Community College, whose own Innovation Fund served as the model for this new program.

Clearly this was a good day for the Northeast Ohio region, but more importantly it was a great day for entrepreneurship. I now hope that we can sustain the energy and interest nationally to continue in an entrepreneurially focused way.

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