Makers should pay attention to a new state legislative initiative that has taken a critical first step. The bill provides a model for governments to empower anyone who wants to start and grow a new business, which is essential to creating new jobs.
The disappointing U.S. job gains in April – just 266,000 new jobs – shocked economists. Experts had predicted one million new jobs, anticipating that the federal relief package would lead to a jobs bounce and that the re-opening of businesses would increase jobs. These low numbers serve as an important reminder that virtually all job growth in America has historically been created by new businesses. As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s critical that we make it easier for makers and others to start these new businesses.
At the state level, the Missouri House of Representatives took a significant step in this direction on May 3. The legislative body passed the Right to Start Act, the most comprehensive state legislation to benefit entrepreneurs in decades. The bill was sponsored by Representative Travis Fitzwater, a longtime champion for entrepreneurship who is passionate about young companies and their potential for driving economic growth and job creation. The legislation progressed quickly in one legislative session and passed with bipartisan support from representatives of both urban and rural districts, underscoring its broad appeal. While the legislation must still be passed by the Missouri Senate to become law, the bill’s rapid progress indicates a strong appetite for such policies.
This state legislative initiative is based on policy proposals advocated by Right to Start, the nonprofit campaign that I lead. It combines policy recommendations contained in Right to Start’s “Field Guide for Policymakers” with other proposals designed to address Missouri’s specific needs. For instance, the bill includes the “Field Guide” recommendation that 5% of all state contracts be awarded to businesses five years old and younger. It also bans non-compete agreements for the majority of workers. And to address some Missouri-specific priorities, it creates an Office of Entrepreneurship within the Department of Economic Development and reduces the tax burden on new businesses, down to zero taxes in their first year.
The Right to Start Act promises significant benefits to the state of Missouri, but it also serves as an important model for advancing entrepreneurship nationwide. It offers a template that other states can advance and adapt to meet their particular needs. States can draw on this framework to foster more entrepreneurship in their own environments, tearing down the biggest barriers and offering needed support for entrepreneurs. Missouri is not the only state that has talented, passionate people who value entrepreneurship and seek a legislative environment that fosters new business creation. And while Missouri has set a rapid pace for the nation, other states could implement similar legislation that would move their states to the forefront as well.
Right to Start works from the premise that entrepreneurship should be a community priority everywhere, and that all communities have assets ready to be mobilized to support new business creation. These assets can be, for example, a community’s heritage, its institutions, and its gathering places. They also include its people – entrepreneurs, makers, elected officials, and others who seek an environment in which ideas are explored, inventions are created, and businesses are born.
Not every community, of course, has the same assets. Some assets may be more obvious than others, and some communities may need to collaborate with others nearby. Every community, however, has leaders, makers, and unique strengths on which to build.
As we celebrate Missouri’s first step in this direction, we also celebrate the great potential of this initiative to drive change – and the vital creative presence of makers in the United States and beyond.
Victor W. Hwang is Founder and CEO of Right to Start, a campaign to drive economic recovery by expanding entrepreneurial opportunity for all Americans building new small businesses. The campaign is based in two affiliated organizations, Right to Start, a 501(c)3, and Right to Start Fund, a 501(c)4.
[feature photo by Brittney Butler ]