Entrepreneurs Win at House Small Business Committee Markup

By: Jake Clabaugh, WIPP Government Relations

32cc090e-78c0-46b6-8130-e810a45a4029WIPP’s access to capital platform, Breaking the Bank, continues to gain traction in Congress as two more priorities cleared the House Small Business Committee during this morning’s markup. The Commercializing on Small Business Innovation Act provides much needed improvements to the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These programs provide funding for small businesses to innovate through research and development partnerships with federal agencies. WIPP’s platform advocates for a public-private partnership to accelerate the commercialization of technologies developed through the SBIR & STTR programs and the bill passed today does just that. The Commercialization Assistance Pilot Program will allow small businesses to receive additional funding to assist entrepreneurs with bringing their products to market after completing the program.

Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) are an invaluable resource for the 10 million women entrepreneurs in the country who annually contribute $1.4 trillion to the nation’s economy. Legislation to reauthorize this program, the Women’s Small Business Ownership Act of 2015, was cleared by the Senate Committee on Small Business last fall and now the House Committee has followed suit. The Developing the Next Generation of Small Businesses Act of 2016 provides much needed updates to the WBC program including expanding annual authorized funding to $21.75 million and increasing the grants available to centers that provide training and counseling to entrepreneurs.

We would like to thank Chair Steve Chabot (R-OH), Ranking Member Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), and Representative Judy Chu (D-CA) for prioritizing women entrepreneurs and passing both pieces legislation with bipartisan, unanimous votes.

 

 

 

House Committee Passes Bipartisan Federal Contractor Changes

By: Ann Sullivan, WIPP Government Relations

 

In its first major action of 2016, the House Small Business Committee approved changes to federal contracting which affect small companies who do business with the federal government. Acting in a bipartisan manner is relatively rare in Congress these days, but the Committee unanimously adopted the legislation, The Defending America’s Small Contractors Act of 2016, with over two-thirds of the Committee contributing content to the bill.

 

For the last three years, the House Small Business Committee has pushed for changes to the government’s buying rules and this week’s legislation was no exception. In our view, the following changes in the bill will prove to be significant to small contractors. One attacks an age-old problem – showing past performance without a government contract. The bill establishes a pilot program that enables contractors to receive a past performance rating by submitting a request to the contracting officer and/or prime contractor.  Second, the bill strengthens agency small business offices to recommend which small business set-aside programs should be used for each contract at their agency.

Anne CrossmanThird, WIPP’s recommendations were incorporated in the legislation, including one made by Anne Crossman, a member of WIPP’s Leadership Advisory Council, in her testimony before the Committee. Anne took the opportunity to highlight WIPP’s “if you list us, use us” policy for prime contractors’ subcontracting plans. This bill incorporates WIPP’s recommendations to clarify the role of commercial market representatives (CMRs) in encouraging prime contractors to work with small businesses. Lastly, the bill takes the first step toward getting a better handle on the actual amount set aside for small businesses by requiring agencies to divulge awards counted toward multiple small business goals.

An amendment offered by Rep. Takai scored a victory for women entrepreneurs by allowing Women’s Business Centers (WBCs) to provide procurement assistance to women participating in the DOD mentor-protégé program. Rep. Takai’s statement on the amendment is available here and includes WIPP’s statement of support.

These improvements set the stage for a productive year of improvements for small contractors. The bill, which passed unanimously, will now be considered by the full House of Representatives. The House Small Business Committee is off to a great start. We can’t wait to see what they do next.

Small and Medium-Sized Companies in the Focus of Exporting News

Small and medium-sized exporting companies had several reasons for good spirit in the last couple of weeks – especially Trans-Pacific Partnership and Export-Import Bank supporters.

The final agreement on Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) got a substantial coverage across the news, as it is the largest regional trade accord in history. As covered a few weeks ago, it encompasses USA together with 11 Pacific Rim nations and addresses many complex issues – from reducing tariffs and quotas, to imposing rigorous environmental, labor and intellectual property standards on partners, easing cross-border data flows, establishing an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism, to free trade in services, and imposing competitive neutrality on state-operated businesses.

There is one particularly important area, which deserves a separate attention – focus of TPP on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Last week, National Small Business Association hosted a webinar where Andrew Quin, Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, among other described new chapter of the TPP deal focused on SMEs. The chapter aims to tide together all different elements that benefit SMEs and he highlighted 2 major areas:

  1. Creation of dedicated website for SME exporters by every member country. The websites should pull out all provisions which are particularly relevant to SMEs such as customs, taxation or intellectual property protection topics to make it better understandable and easier to follow in day-to-day exporting trade deals.
  1. Creation of SME committee to continue consultations with SMEs and collect feedback on what works, if benefits are being generated, and on how to continue maximizing benefits to SMEs. The committee will consist of government representatives, however promises to take inputs from SMEs on private sector provisions.

All of the above claims to suggest that TPP is more beneficial to SMEs than any previous trade agreement. Mr. Quin also reassured that TPP will not have any impact on Minority-Owned Small Businesses set aside programs (including the one WOSB program for women).

Another topic that came out after few weeks is the reauthorization of Export-Import Bank (EXIM). As Mr. Quin stated, it is a separate initiative but important piece to allow a full benefit of TPP. EXIM is providing loans, guarantees, and insurance to U.S. exporters and has made SMEs exports the top category supported last year (source) when $10.7 billion of total $27.5 billion worth of U.S. exports went to U.S. small businesses.

EXIM

Many SMEs publicly supported EXIM reauthorization, and they all have now a hope that it might be successful after all. A rare procedural move brought EXIM to the House floor and got a surprising support in the 313-118 vote to renew, including from 127 Republicans.

However, now the supporters will have to secure passage in the Senate but they seem to have a chance through its attachment to another vehicle, such as legislation to renew highway funding (source).

Overall, current news seem to suggest that it is a good time to be an exporter and according to the latest annual report Profile of U.S. Importing and Exporting Companies released by Census Bureau, many SMEs have already realized that as they accounted for 98 percent of the number of U.S. exporters in 2013 and $471 billion in known value of goods exports.

Time for Congress to Move a Neutral Net into Drive

WIPP infographic II

Capital investment is a solid predictor of economic health. That’s why recent news in the communications policy arena deserves Congress’ attention.

Last week, a new regulatory regime over the Internet took effect. But before these rules came to life, a half-dozen small Internet providers in the Midwest, South and Pacific Northwest told federal officials that they had been forced to cut back on expanding faster broadband service because of the FCC’s recent decision to begin micromanaging the Internet.

All six of these Internet providers specialize in serving small towns and underserved areas; none have the size or scale to accommodate the new regulations’ expenses without budget cuts elsewhere. Moreover, their statements were made under threat of perjury.

For women in particular, this issue should raise serious concerns. Almost half of women-owned businesses are home-based. Anything that slows home broadband deployment has a potential to impact the full economic participation of women.

These verified reports about higher regulatory costs and less money for investment are a clear “canary in the coal mine” warning to Congress about the FCC’s decision to regulate the Internet with Title II regulations written in 1934. That 3-2 party line vote on February 26 overturned decades of successful experience about the benefits of “light touch” rules for the Internet.

Prior to that ill-fated FCC vote, federal Internet policy was both an area of broad agreement and a shining example of successfully encouraging an important new industry. The lack of federal micromanagement that was a hallmark of federal policy since Bill Clinton’s Presidency was key to unleashing a tidal wave of communications investment — $1.3 trillion since 1996 and $75 billion just in 2013.

The results speak for themselves, especially when compared with other countries’ experiences. The U.S. has a huge lead over Europe in both fiber optic deployment and high-speed 4G LTE broadband. Americans spend more time talking on their mobile phones than people in any developed country in the world.

This investment also produced jobs – lots of them. The growth of the mobile app economy, which developed because of America’s high-speed wireless networks, sustains more than 750,000 U.S. jobs, according to the Progressive Policy Institute.

The FCC’s decision to regulate the Internet as a public utility with outdated Title II rules undercuts the very policies that helped spur this success. The FCC’s action is as inexplicable as it is wrongheaded.

Indeed, the Commission’s efforts to explain this action border on the comical. As Hal Singer noted in a recent Forbes commentary, the FCC’s own economic analysis of its action is almost amusing. For example, the agency claimed that the broadband industry’s strong record of investment in 2010 showed that its regulations encourage investment, despite the fact that the Commission’s vote on a more reasonable set of Internet rules occurred on December 21, 2010.

Ultimately, the key reason that Congress must update America’s communications laws is to protect the people who lost an opportunity for better Internet service, because the FCC’s action added pointless new expenses and legal uncertainties to broadband deployment.

The 8,000 St. Louis-area residents served by Wisper ISP, a Missouri-based Internet provider, have felt the negative impact of these utility style regulations. As a result of the FCC’s decision, Wisper estimates that compliance costs will grow to 10% of its operating revenue. It has already had to cut investment, resulting in what the company calls “slower broadband speeds, less dense coverage, and absence of expansion into new areas.”

It is a testament to the bipartisan, light-touch policies implemented back when Internet access meant a 56 KB modem that consumers enjoy so much today. Yet, at just the time when the United States was poised to run the table in a 21st century economy, the FCC pulled the rug out from under small businesses. The FCC’s February vote, and last week’s rules enactment, undid the phenomenal success of the modern Internet.

It is time for Congress to set things right again. We hope that members of both parties come together to enact common-sense legislation that both protects the Internet and reinstitutes the wise telecom policy that has brought us the Internet we use and enjoy today.

It’s Time to Lift America’s Ban On Crude Oil Exports

oilby Barbara Kasoff, WIPP President

Since the start of the year, a surprising amount of support on both sides of the aisle to remove the ban on crude oil exports has emerged. Is this a sign that we are entering into a new era of bipartisan collaboration, specifically to form an energy agenda that will improve the nation’s security and get our economy moving again? While that still may be a ways off, it is clear this is one issue that could lead to historic collaboration on energy policies that will benefit American economy.

The 4.7 million businesswomen across the country that our coalition represents believe we can help secure the nation’s economic future through sound energy policies. We believe exporting our abundant energy resources must be a key part of that future and supporting an update in our crude oil export policy is the correct course of action and would allow our country to prosper at its full potential.

According to a report released this week by Margo Thorning, senior vice president and chief economist for the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF), and William Shughart a research director for the Independent Institute and J. Fish Smith Professor in Public Choice at the University of Utah, the economic advantages and geopolitical benefits to lifting the ban on crude are clear.

The paper titled, “The Economic Case for Lifting the Crude Oil Export Ban,” cites the findings from five different studies conducted by various institutions such as IHS, Brookings Institute, the Aspen Institute, ICF International, and Resources for the Future, all of which agree that the case to update this policy is strong. Notably, they all conclude the same three major impacts lifting the ban on crude oil exports would have on the economy and consumers, including: job creation, an increase in U.S. GDP, and a downward pressure on consumer fuel prices.

For example, one of the most recently released studies mentioned in the report – by IHS – estimated that lifting the ban on crude oil exports would generate 390,000-859,000 new jobs annually nationwide and increase U.S. GDP between $86 billion and $170 billion over the next fifteen years.

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, who has been one of the biggest champions of an examination of various U.S. energy policies, including the ban on crude oil exports, also noted the economic “no brainer” we are facing, stating, ““the economics are clear… lifting the ban on crude oil exports will benefit consumers.”

In addition to the much need economic stimulus from removing the ban, revising the current energy exports policy specifically with regard to crude oil, also extends U.S. geopolitical influence by strengthening our international trade relationships. Foreign allies would gain access to a stable and abundant source of crude oil that would overall create a more secure market.

Women thought leaders like Dr. Margo Thorning and Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski understand that repealing the ban on crude represents a fiscally responsible strategy to allow the U.S. to utilize our growing energy abundance.  Simply put, to quote Murkowski herself, “It’s time to lift America’s ban on crude oil exports.”