If we want more jobs created, we need more start-ups. Start-ups equal new ideas, new products, new services, new approaches to old ideas and, most of all, new jobs. With all the bad news being reported about the economy, I believe our optimism could use a spark. That spark could be generated by new start-ups.
I am not just talking about high-tech or software companies. I am talking about small manufacturers, green businesses, restaurants, small farms and new service companies. We need start-ups that explode with potential and revenue and start-ups that struggle and grow. We need to encourage the entrepreneurial ideal that starting a company is a viable option for all Americans. We have always been a country that cherished the entrepreneur. We need to get back to encouraging new start-ups by supporting them and cheering them to success.
With the all the posturing taking place in Salem and Washington D.C., lets remind them there are some simple solutions to encourage new business creation.
Entrepreneurial education for all
We need to continue to encourage the development of entrepreneur centers at our universities and community colleges. These centers bring students, professors, investors and business people together to share, develop and launch new ideas and concepts. This information exchange creates an exciting environment of optimism.
Incubators to help speed development
Start-ups need a little help getting started. Most incubators follow the same basic model: A group of seasoned entrepreneurs and investors select a few promising founders with sound business ideas; they hand over a little cash and a place to work for a couple of months and provide lots of hands-on coaching, strategizing and butt-kicking in exchange for a modest equity share in the company. One way government can help create jobs is for state, county and city officials to get on the incubator bus and help develop and encourage local and regional incubators.
A tax cut for angels and start-up founders
This is very simple. Give from 25 percent to 50 percent of the total dollars invested as a tax credit to the angel investors or start-up founders that have invested in the start-up company. This tax credit will help reduce some the investment risk and encourage more people to invest in start-up companies, thereby creating jobs.
Business-Plan Competitions to Reward Innovation
Business-plan competitions foster a contest economy that promotes start-up activity and much-needed innovation. They are easy to organize and can be developed for local, county, regional and state competitions. The reward is a small cash infusion to the winner or even the top three business plans and presentations.
A chamber of commerce, port or the economic development department of a city or county could organize this type of competition and help spread the word about the results.
Cutting incorporation bureaucracy
The process and cost of filing for incorporation continues to increase. The fees and time spent doing this can cost start-ups valuable cash and take away time better spent focusing on developing the concept. City, county, state and federal requirements should be able to be completed using one or two simple forms. Making it easier and less expensive should be the goal.
Banking the unbankable can prove to be a smart investment for cities and states. While the big banks and community banks have beefed up loan requirements or significantly cut back on small-business lending, non-profit micro-finance lenders have come to play an ever-more-important role in bridging the funding gap. Micro-finance is loaning amounts from $1,000 to $30,000 (high end) to businesses normally unable to obtain traditional financing. Some of the larger non-profits doing this type of lending are experiencing a 95-percent repayment rate, even to people with poor credit. A recent independent study showed every dollar invested by one of these funds into small businesses had a financial return of 2-to-1 in new wages, spending, and tax revenue throughout the region. Now that is a good investment in the community.
In a jobless recovery, we need government, schools, corporations, nonprofits, investors and entrepreneurs to come together. Many of these programs are taking place across the country, and it would be easy to copy any of them make them work in rural Oregon. More new businesses mean more new jobs, and that helps everyone.
Mike Mathisen, 43, is married and has two daughters. He lives in Hermiston and works as food service manager for the Oregon Dept. of Corrections at Two Rivers Correctional Institution. He volunteers with several area organizations and is a court appointed special advocate.