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Entrepreneurial Efforts Underway to Boost Economy

March 05, 2009

As companies across the nation continue to announce massive layoffs during the economic recession, states, localities and private foundations are encouraging entrepreneurial training and providing support services to help create new jobs and assist struggling businesses.

Last month, the Kauffman Foundation announced an intensive effort to quickly train entrepreneurs and bolster the nation's economy. The $1 million FastTrac LaunchPad program is a combination of two existing initiatives - the FastTrac NewVenture and FastTrac GrowthVenture - offered in shorter lengths than the normal ten-week courses. The Kauffman Foundation points to U.S. Census Bureau Business Dynamic Statistics data, which indicates that while business startups decline slightly in most of the cyclical downturns, startups remain robust even in the most severe recession over the sample period (in the early 1980s).

The following is a sampling of recent announcements in support of entrepreneurship from across the country.

New York City
New York City, which has suffered major job losses throughout the financial sector, was the first to sign on to Kauffman's FastTrac program. The city's Department of Small Business Services will offer a six-session classroom-based course to help entrepreneurs determine the viability of their business concepts and develop startup strategies. An eight-week classroom training session will teach existing businesses how to review and reshape their business models in order to meet the current economic challenges.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the announcement last month in tandem with several other initiatives to promote entrepreneurship and grow the city's venture capital sector, including low-cost incubators for startup companies, creating an angel seed fund, and establishing a central information clearinghouse and support network for entrepreneurs.

Rhode Island
Efforts to support new business creation are underway in Rhode Island, where 10.3 percent of residents were unemployed in January. The Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC) and Brown University announced plans to open a Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the spring, leveraging the assets of the state's institutions of higher education, hospitals and the private sector.

Creation of the center is one of three key recommendations for growing the state's economy through strategic investments in R&D presented to Gov. Carcieri and the General Assembly by the Rhode Island Science and Technology Advisory Council (STAC). The initiative is a multi-institutional partnership that connects existing programs and helps to identify gaps where new programs and services are needed. It is envisioned as a springboard for commercializing research by enhancing technology transfer from higher education institutions and facilitating new startup formation, according to the STAC report.

Funding for the center is provided by an initial investment from Brown University and public investment by the RIEDC, STAC, and the Slater Technology Fund. RIEDC is contributing $100,000 to help build the center, and the Slater Technology Fund and STAC are each contributing $50,000. Other public and private institutions are expected to contribute to the effort.

The new President and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Greg Main, announced his intention to focus on efforts that build an entrepreneurial culture in a state that leads the nation in unemployment rates.

During an interview published in Crain's Detroit Business, Main said, ". We need to do a much more intensive job of building what I call a culture of entrepreneurship in the state. I think that's not been a strength in Michigan, and it needs to be if we're going to have a technology-based economy. We need to find ways to encourage more entrepreneurship emphasis in our university systems and find ways to put in place stronger programs to support entrepreneurs, including pools of early stage capital."

Michigan, New York, Rhode Island