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Every Lawmaker Should Promote Startups and Job Growth | Commentary

Innovation and entrepreneurship have been hallmarks of America since our nation’s earliest days. These values catapulted a small outpost on the world stage to global economic and political preeminence. Today, as we struggle to regain our economic footing, now more than ever, we need American innovators and entrepreneurs to help drive our country — and our world — forward.

Last year, in order to ensure that federal policy fosters conditions to support this effort, I — as well as Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., and Rep. Gary Peters, D-Mich. — reached across party lines to create the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Along with the more than two dozen other Democrats and Republicans in the caucus, we have held several briefings over the past year to educate members and staff on how innovation and entrepreneurship lead to job creation, the importance of developing “entrepreneurial ecosystems” to support startup companies, and the role that enhancing human capital through education and immigration reforms can play in creating the next generation of innovative American enterprises.

Through these efforts, we have come to believe that supporting an innovation economy can, should and must be a bipartisan endeavor; and that early stage innovative startup companies have the capacity to drive economic growth in every corner of our country.

In that spirit, the Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship has set Thursday as “Start-Up Day Across America” and is asking Republican and Democratic members alike to visit at least one startup company in their district on that day. These visits will raise awareness of startup activity and job creation throughout the country and help support the local innovation economy in each district. They also will provide local entrepreneurs with an opportunity to engage with and educate members about the challenges they are facing and how federal policy can be more supportive of their efforts.

Start-Up Day Across America events will spotlight the fact that each year, startups create an average of 3 million jobs in the United States by using technology to solve problems and to create innovative new products and services in a variety of industries, from retail and health care to entertainment and education and more. According to a 2010 Kauffman Foundation report, startups — particularly companies less than five years old — are responsible for the majority of the net new jobs in the United States. Such statistics are notable when you consider that most of our nation’s startup companies are younger than three years of age.

Start-Up Day Across America events will also demonstrate that startup companies and innovation communities no longer just exist in Silicon Valley, New York and Boston, but also are thriving in areas such as Austin, Detroit, Nashville, Des Moines and Portland — and in more rural areas as well. Startup communities are not only geographically diverse, but also increasingly reflective of America as, according to UpGlobal, 27 percent of startups nationwide are owned by women, while 33 percent are owned by minorities.

In the past few decades, American companies that started in dorm rooms and cubicles and garages and university laboratories have changed the world. We urge our fellow members of Congress to join us on Thursday for Start-Up Day Across America as we meet the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders, innovators, and job creators within each of our communities. Let us celebrate, recognize and encourage those who are building startup companies and capitalizing on that essential innovative entrepreneurial spirit that since our country’s beginning has catalyzed and been intertwined with American progress.

Rep. Jared Polis is a Democrat representing Colorado’s 2nd District.

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