Nearly every day there's some statistic or factor that's bandied about to demonstrate why our economy continues to struggle. But in all the debates among economists and policymakers over the past few months, one group of people has been stunningly underrepresented -- and it's a group that may actually hold the key to economic recovery: entrepreneurs.
The vast majority of new jobs during tough economic times are created by entrepreneurs, and since 1980, all net job growth has come from businesses less than five years old. Entrepreneurs nationwide know firsthand the transformative effect that starting a business can have on individuals and on their communities.
Across the country, entrepreneurs are turning their dreams of starting businesses into reality, and in the process they are revitalizing their communities by creating new jobs. This is nothing new: Some of today's biggest companies were started by entrepreneurs during bad economic times, including Microsoft, BET, Whole Foods, and Adobe Systems. On average, more than half a million people start a business each year. And, despite the onset of the recession, last year was no different. In fact, according to Kauffman Foundation research, the number of new firms started in 2008 was slightly higher than in 2007.
To help unleash that entrepreneurial energy, Kauffman is today launching an Entrepreneurs' Movement called "Build a Stronger America," which is aimed at giving entrepreneurs, and those who support them, a unified voice to influence the debate on behalf of job-creators nationwide.
Recent surveys show the American people also understand the value these business owners bring -- with 80 percent saying they believe the U.S. economy has been and will continue to be built by entrepreneurs, and 77 percent saying they think we cannot have a sustained economic recovery without another burst of entrepreneurial energy.
While Americans understand that entrepreneurs are critical to economic growth, our national dialogue doesn't include comprehensive discussion of policies that promote private sector, job-creating reform. This disconnect likely exists because there is currently no organized community advocating for policies favorable to entrepreneurship -- and the Entrepreneurs' Movement is intended to fill that void by giving entrepreneurs the voice they need.
In that spirit, "Build a Stronger America" will help business owners of all sizes form a collective force so that policymakers from coast-to-coast will consider their needs -- and the needs of all entrepreneurs -- as they evaluate new laws and regulations. We're also offering entrepreneurs a chance to share their stories, connect with like-minded innovators, and discover more efficient ways of doing business.
That's why I'm so pleased inspirational entrepreneurs like Chris Gardner are among our founding supporters. As his book and film, The Pursuit of Happyness, showed, no matter how difficult the circumstances anyone can follow his dream and become his own employer.
We at Kauffman are encouraged that, even during this difficult economic climate, Americans continue to take the risks that create new innovations and jobs - and that ultimately improve human welfare. Please voice your support today to help our nation's innovators start and grow their businesses tomorrow by joining the Entrepreneurs' Movement at www.buildastrongeramerica.com.
As the statistics prove, this just may be the most important cause of our current economic times.
Carl J. Schramm, president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, is author of The Entrepreneurial Imperative and coauthor of Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism.