The Agenda for America's Entrepreneurs: Infrastructure & Economic Development
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that small businesses are the drivers of our economy, which is why investments in economic development and infrastructure should reflect their importance. This means ensuring community development and infrastructure initiatives benefit small businesses and their local communities, rather than large corporations. Small businesses rely on public infrastructure more than large businesses that have their own infrastructure capabilities. The pandemic has also exacerbated issues in the supply chain, which are hammering small business owners’ abilities to recover effectively. Investments into the nation’s infrastructure must be targeted to meet the needs of small businesses and traditionally underserved business owners like women, entrepreneurs of color and rural entrepreneurs.
More than 220,000 of our country's bridges are structurally deficient and need to be repaired or replaced, one of every five miles of America's roads are in poor condition and much of rural America lacks crucial access to broadband technology. Investing in both our physical and broadband infrastructure supports access to customers and suppliers, enhances business operations and creates demand for the goods and services small businesses have to sell. What's more, infrastructure investments like broadband support the growth of a vibrant freelance and entrepreneurial economy that relies on the Internet for access to markets, customers and services to support operations, a business structure that has been particularly important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our polling shows a majority of small business owners agree that robust investment in our nation's infrastructure is crucial to the success of their business.
Top priorities for Congress to support small business
- Ensure implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure package, which makes investments in both physical and broadband infrastructure, reaches small businesses, particularly in under-resourced communities.
- The federal government often falls short to meet its requirements of contracting small businesses especially underserved entrepreneurs of color and women. The federal government must ensure that contracting standards are not just met, but exceeded for physical infrastructure projects. This would help infuse expansion and growth in both the small business ecosystem and local communities.
- Promote supply chain diversity as part of implementation of the infrastructure package to ensure small firms, especially those in rural and underserved communities, can participate in infrastructure investments.
Build our infrastructure through robust and innovative investments
- Strengthen investments by federal agencies to spur growth and support small businesses that are key players in the clean energy economy's supply chain through economic clusters and other related programs.
- Create an "infrastructure bank" or other sustainable infrastructure financing entity to drive continued investment from the public and private sectors into the nation's roads, bridges and other infrastructure.
- Extend renewable energy tax credits that can benefit small businesses. Businesses that operate facilities that produce electricity from wind and other renewable resources were able to choose either the Production Tax Credit or the Energy Investment Tax Credit. The Production Tax Credit expired in 2019, but the Energy Investment Tax Credit expires in 2021.
- Support legislation, particularly at the state level, to counteract the FCC's repeal of net neutrality. Without a fair and open Internet, small businesses will be at a disadvantage when trying to compete with larger corporations that have the resources to ensure their websites receive special prioritization from their Internet service providers.
- Expand access to shared workspaces, accelerators and incubators that provide the physical and operational infrastructure for entrepreneurs to start and grow new businesses.
- Reauthorize the Export-Import Bank to continue allowing small businesses to engage in exporting activities. Small and medium-sized businesses account for 98% of the 300,000 American companies that export. The Ex-Im Bank fills in the gaps offered by traditional financing by partnering with private-sector lenders to provide loans, loan guarantees and credit to aid foreign purchasers in buying American-made goods.
- Ensure that infrastructure is resilient enough to endure ever-increasing extreme weather events. Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather since they rely on their public infrastructure like roads, bridges, and power-grids. This should include reintroducing and passing the Strengthening the Resilience of our Nation on the Ground (STRONG) Act.
Ensure local economic development benefits small businesses, rather than large national or multinational corporations
- Oppose state and local tax policies that amount to "giveaways" to large corporations at the expense of investing in Main Street small businesses.
- Fully disclose incentive packages offered to large companies interested in making job deals with communities. It is important that a community's residents and small business owners are fully aware of what elected officials are offering and what the impact will be on affordable housing, public transportation and taxes.
- For example, states can develop Unified Economic Development Budgets (UEDBs) that will streamline all economic development spending and provide transparent information to policymakers and taxpayers on tax expenditures. UEDBs include names of companies receiving subsidies, the amounts of the subsidies and program and agency-specific expenditures, among other valuable pieces of information, to assist policymakers in making informed decisions with a complete picture of the entire development budget.