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Entrepreneurship-Led Economic Development

Entrepreneurship-Led Economic Development

By Micah Babcock, originally published in Focus magazine

When it comes to business development there are tons of programs to assist with access to capital for start-ups or to help larger corporations expand, but the companies in the “middle”, otherwise known as second-stage companies (9-99 employees), where a majority of Michigan’s jobs come from tend to be left out. Since the founding of Michigan Celebrates Small Business in 2004, an awards program that focuses on second-stage growth businesses, the cumulative job growth of the total 750 recognized companies is 12,506. Now imagine that, an Amazon level amount of jobs already being created here in Michigan, diverse in industry and location, with almost no state investment. Imagine what these companies could do if we supported them.  Now this “investment” isn’t necessarily in direct funding, but supplying these businesses with resources to help them grow, and to set up the state government in a way that is responsive and mindful of issues small businesses are having. 

This issue is precisely why the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) has been working on important public policy that will change the conversation, something we call Entrepreneurship Led Economic Development (ELED). This year SBAM has been working with state legislative leadership to craft a package that will make state government work for small business, make it easier for businesses to comply and understand regulations and obtain occupational licenses, and to assist our state’s powerhouse of job creation when it comes to common issues that are setting them back from their full growth potential. 

The Policy:

Creation of a Small Business Administrator and the Small Business Growth Acceleration Board

The Small Business Administrator, who is appointed by the Governor, would be Chair of the Small Business Growth Acceleration Board whose tasks are to promote and coordinate small business growth efforts. Specific areas this Board would look into to develop include but are not limited to, mentor matchmaking initiatives, resource navigation, support services, procurement opportunities, access market research data and much more! If this Board sees an issue that is directly affecting many small businesses' growth in the state, it would be their job to address it. With a Board and a Governor’s appointee all tasked with the specific job of assisting small business growth in our state, there is great opportunity to bring Michigan to the forefront in small business economic development.

Creation of a Small Business Director

The Small Business Director would be tasked with facilitating creation and retention of small business jobs in the state, creating a one-stop-shop for small businesses interactions with state government, facilitate a website tasked with providing resources for small businesses, fielding and investigating complaints from small businesses, and much more. This Director and their office would essentially be a small business advocate directly within the bureaucracy that can listen and act on issues that businesses across the state are having. The days of calling through a list of various government bureaucrats hoping to stumble on someone who understands your businesses’ issue is over.

Creation of Department level Small Business Liaisons

Require all state agencies that investigate, inspect, or monitor small businesses to have a specific Small Business Liaison in said agency. Currently, many of the departments and agencies that regulate and enforce regulation on small businesses don’t have an individual in their office that focuses on small businesses. This means that if you have an issue with a department as a small business owner, there usually isn't a contact for you to speak with - this bill would change that. Many of the issues that small businesses have are very unique, and many of the rules that these bodies create are discussed without a small business voice directly at the table. Our current system demonstrates how rules and regulations that departments enact are created without understanding implications on small businesses. It’s time for the government to be responsive and mindful about their impact on small businesses, and to do that we need advocates at the table.

Creation of a Virtual Business Roadmap

This “Roadmap” would work much like the common tax platform “TurboTax” in which it would ask a series of questions in an easy format that would: Identify possible legal entities for said business; Assist users with state compliance issues; identify and assist in applying for appropriate licenses and permits; and link to other pertinent small business resources available. Many small business owners struggle with keeping up with regulations and rules the government is making. Having a system that is simple to use and effective in assisting owners with compliance and regulatory issues will give business owners more time to focus on business growth as well as make it much easier for new entrepreneurs to get started.

These ideas are not unique or expensive, they’re common-sense changes that will make Michigan attractive to entrepreneurs. This bill package would make our state government deliberate in removing barriers to small business growth, responsive to inquiries, and mindful of its' impact on small business owners. It's about time state government worked for small business.

 

Micah Babcock is SBAM's Director of Government Operations. He can be reached at micah.babcock@sbam.org

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