Dr. Deborah Osgood
Economic Citizenship - collaboration between government, economic development agencies and leading private sector business-to-business organizations to stimulate job creation and economic growth - represents an influential force at a time of national economic crisis.
For that reason, the federal government should promote an Economic Citizenship program that expands public/private collaborative interactions at the national, regional and local levels.
America's Economic Challenge
Economic crisis creates instability and unpredictability in all aspects of political, economic and social strata. Particularly affected are small ventures where job losses may not be fully counted. In this environment, small businesses represent a valuable source of economic and social stability in rural communities all across America. Small business is the backbone of the American economy with over 26.8 million ventures playing a key role in providing new ideas, employing workers, and developing innovative products and services that add value to the local, regional and national economy1.
Due to the current financial crisis, increased global competition, fluctuating energy costs and other negative market forces, this important sector and the economic and social vitality that it provides to our communities, remains at risk. Further, if small business support needs are not met, economic stimulus objectives may be unnecessarily delayed or may not be fully realized. For example, although 2.5 million new jobs were targeted through President Obama's $787 billion economic recovery package, it would only take 10% of small businesses each eliminating one job, to completely negate this impact.
Limitations of Existing Federal Policy
Government, economic development agencies and private sector organizations possess the reach and the resources to stimulate economic recovery and address the existing barriers that threaten small business sustainability. However, current initiatives are discreet, fragmented, idiosyncratic, disconnected, autonomous and insular, and continue to evolve in an uncoordinated fashion.
Further, societal factors of trust and fear also compromise impact where government agencies are large bureaucracies that are difficult to work with; economic development agencies are nonprofit entities inherently constrained by limited funding and capacity issues; and private sector corporations exist to make a profit and not to provide technical assistance as a social service.
A New Federal Approach
The federal government should move to promote Economic Citizenship at the national, regional and local levels for the purpose of further stimulating small business development, job creation and economic growth. Public/private participants must embrace a value-neutral third-party, social entrepreneur through Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs), to compile and publish information about economic development programs and technical assistance business resources in a non-commercial, educationally focused centralized platform accessible to all individuals at no charge and in a manner where they can be understood. Consistent with this, the federal government should boost the rate of economic recovery and job creation by promoting awareness, access and use of all public/private small business development initiatives through a four-part Economic Citizenship program:
- Promote an existing information center that aggregates, publishes and facilitates awareness, access and use of public/private small business development resources as a free, self-sustainable public service on a state-by-state basis (visit www.buzgate.org).
- Facilitate agency engagement where government and nonprofit economic development agencies that offer small business technical assistance programs proactively submit resources to the information center for publishing at no charge and promote information center access.
- Facilitate private sector engagement where industry business-to-business leaders are given incentives to sponsor the development of non-commercial educationally-focused content about productivity-enhancing small business solutions, best practices and innovations, as well as promote information center access.
- Establish a grants program to support information center improvements that would direct financial and other assistance to small business development and job creation initiatives, such as regional economic clusters and niche venues serving veterans, women, minorities and youth.