On Tuesday, President Obama will deliver his State of the Union address to an international audience. He’ll have plenty of issues to address – gun control, job creation, national debt, taxes, and immigration reform – but there is a chance that he might also mention entrepreneurship.
Three US Senators today have sent a letter to the President calling on him to highlight startups and small businesses in the address. In the letter, Jerry Moran (R-Kan), Mark Warner (D-Va), and Chris Coons (D-Del) say: “As you prepare to deliver your State of the Union address, we encourage you to speak about the important role entrepreneurs play in economic growth and job creation.”
The call comes as the senators prepare to reintroduce their Startup Act 2.0 legislation next week. The bill, which is supported by startup advocacy groups such as Engine Advocacy and the Kauffman Foundation, would modify the tax code to encourage investment in new businesses, accelerate the commercialization of university research, and provide a “startup visa” for foreign entrepreneurs who want to come to the US to start a venture-backed business.
In the letter, the senators invoke the names of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Sergey Brin and point out that entrepreneurs and startups have been responsible for nearly all net job creation in the US since 1980, creating an average of 3 million jobs a year. Last year’s Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act was a good start, but there is more to be done, the senators said. “Startup Act 2.0 picks up where the JOBS Act left off, particularly by addressing the issue of talent and providing a way for highly-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs to stay in the United States and employ Americans.”
Tech leaders and voices from the startup community have been working together to bring entrepreneurial issues to the negotiating table in Washington DC, excited by an opportunity to address what they see as shortcomings in current immigration laws, which make it tough for foreigners to stay in the US after they graduate, even if they want to start a business here. As Congress readies itself to start discussing sweeping immigration reform in hearings that commence on Wednesday, advocacy groups such as the Kauffman Foundation, the Startup America Partnership, and Engine Advocacy, along with individuals such as AOL founder Steve Case and Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, have been vocal in pushing entrepreneurs and startups onto the agenda.
On Tuesday, Mayer said high-skilled immigration reform is “critical to America’s future,” according to Hillicon Valley. “I urge Congress and the President to work together in a bipartisan effort to reform policies on immigration, including meaningful reforms to hiring and retaining highly-skilled talent,” Mayer said in a statement. “Yahoo! is focused on hiring the best and brightest from around the world, and we hope US laws will soon make it easier for them to work and live in America alongside the best and brightest American workers.”
Here’s the full letter from Sens. Moran, Warner, and Coons:
Dear Mr. President:
As you prepare to deliver your State of the Union address, we encourage you to speak about the important role entrepreneurs play in economic growth and job creation in your speech.
Since 1980, entrepreneurs and their young companies have been responsible for nearly all of the net job creation in the U.S. economy—creating an average of 3 million new jobs each year. Entrepreneurial icons like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Sergey Brin have not only created new products and services that changed the way Americans live and work, but also provided tens of thousands of jobs to our citizens. The lesser known, but equally hard-working entrepreneurs who open a small business on Main Street provide livelihoods for their families and keep communities across our nation strong. We need both kinds of entrepreneurs to restore prosperity to America and there are steps Washington can take to achieve this goal.
Working together, we introduced legislation last year called Startup Act 2.0 that would unleash the power of entrepreneurs in America. Our legislation, which we plan to introduce again next week, builds on recommendations made by your Council on Jobs and Competitiveness to jumpstart economic growth. Startup Act 2.0 provides new opportunities for highly-educated and entrepreneurial immigrants to stay in the United States, modifies the tax code to encourage investment in new businesses, accelerates the commercialization of university research that can lead to new ventures, and seeks to improve the regulatory process.
In your State of the Union address last year, you called on Congress to pass an agenda that helps startups and small businesses succeed. Congress took an important step in this direction by passing the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, but there is more that must be done. Startup Act 2.0 picks up where the JOBS Act left off, particularly by addressing the issue of talent and providing a way for highly-skilled immigrant entrepreneurs to stay in the United States and employ Americans. Mr. President, you have the opportunity again this year to lead Congress toward enactment of significant legislation that will boost entrepreneurial activity and result in the creation of new jobs. We stand ready to work with you on this important issue.
Jerry Moran, Chris Coons, Mark Warner
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