Many businesses have struggled or closed due to the pandemic. Rep. Jason Crow, a Democrat from Aurora who sits on the House Small Business Committee, said he kept hearing something over and over again from people in his district.
“We have tremendous talent and entrepreneurs in our community,” Crow said people would tell him. “They just face barriers that other people don’t to growing those businesses.”
The question of how to reduce those barriers brought Crow together with Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware and two Republicans, Rep. Troy Balderson of Ohio and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. The four hope a little competition may help revive main streets and spur on a new generation of entrepreneurs.
This nationwide competition is a competitive fellowship. A selection committee would choose 320 entrepreneurs every year for the next 6 years with the goal of getting a business up and running. It would provide health care or student loan support, even a stipend, while the entrepreneurs work with mentors to hone their business plan or their pitch to investors.
It’s about making it as “easy as possible for these entrepreneurs, that work really hard and have great ideas, to grow their businesses in our community,” Crow said.
The price tag for the bill is $330 million. The big question is what kind of appetite will there be in Congress to spend this much. The bill’s sponsors point out that the strong bipartisan start in both chambers helps, especially in the Senate where bills may have to pass a 60-vote threshold.
Scott, who has championed opportunity zones, added he knows the impact thriving small businesses can have on overlooked communities.
Looking back on how tough this past year has been for small businesses from urban to rural areas, Crow said they already know one group of small business owners who might benefit. “It prioritizes business owners and entrepreneurs who may have lost their businesses in the past year because of the pandemic,” he said.
Many of these people already have an idea and know the basics of running a business.
What they need is a second chance, preferably in a non-pandemic year. As for cost, Crow argued this program could pay for itself over time. After all, as businesses grow and create jobs, so grows the economy.