Statement of the Hon. Jason Crow on Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
Washington, June 30, 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic inflicted a once-in-a-lifetime economic shock on our nation. The small businesses that make up the foundation of our economy were particularly hard hit. Despite government efforts, nearly 200,000 businesses that closed their doors during the pandemic may never reopen.
These enterprises were more than just storefronts; they were entrepreneurs’ livelihoods, job creators, and pillars of their communities. As we work towards a full recovery from the pandemic, we must fill the void these closures created.
Unfortunately, we are amid a decades-long decline in entrepreneurship rates across the country. In 1982, new firms constituted 38 percent of all businesses but fell to only 29 percent in 2018. In recent years, the rate at which firms were exiting the market outpaced the rate at which firms entered the market.
This decline in entrepreneurship stems from a variety of different factors. Economic crises like the Great Recession decreased aggregate demand and created a tightened lending environment hurting business start-ups. High amounts of student loan debt, fewer employment opportunities, the increasing consolidation of businesses have led to low entrepreneurship rates among millennials.
Millennials are on track to be the least entrepreneurial generation in history, with start-up rates well below Baby Boomer and Generation X counterparts.
Simply put, we are staring down an entrepreneurship crisis in the country that has the potential to significantly delay our recovery . Moreover, this decline in business start-ups also can lower productivity, decrease the creation of new technologies, and slow the overall rate of job growth. I think we can all agree that this scenario of economic stagnation is unacceptable. Instead, we need our economy operating at maximum strength, and Congress should consider how we can help reverse the decline in entrepreneurship.
This will mean examining existing programs and considering new initiatives to produce an ecosystem that is more favorable to entrepreneurs.
One such proposal is my bipartisan bill called the Next Generation Entrepreneurship Corps Act. Next Gen seeks to accomplish two main objectives: entrepreneurial inclusivity and increased entrepreneurship in distressed regions.
The program utilizes a tried and true model based on programs with a track record of positive impacts like Teach for America and the Peace Corps. The bill would create a national business proposal competition that would select fellows annually to start and run businesses in their communities. The program would reward Next Gen fellows with a $120,000 two-year stipend for living and start-up expenses as well as health benefits.
Fellows would then have access to various resources to help them start and grow their businesses. In addition, the Next Gen bill would provide fellows with access to advice and mentorship through SBA Resource Partners as well as valuable networking opportunities. The program would also give the fellows assistance breaking into the world of federal contracting.
But most importantly, Next Gen would allow underserved entrepreneurs to obtain the capital traditional financial institutions so often deny them. As part of the program, Next Gen fellows would have access to SBA-backed lenders to receive access to credit. Lastly, the program would establish a fund to encourage private investors by providing leverage to those who make an equity investment in a corps member’s business.
I hope that today’s hearing allows us to examine new ideas like the Next Generation Entrepreneurship Corps Act and others. By revitalizing American entrepreneurship, we can transform our economy to be more productive, inclusive, and prosperous.