Across the United States, Main Street small businesses are working to rebuild our economy. These entrepreneurs are doing all they can to hire, grow and move their businesses forward. And they're doing it largely through innovation -- particularly in the clean energy arena.
Across all industries and at both ends of the political spectrum, entrepreneurs overwhelmingly support government investing in renewable energy and creating clean energy policies that will help guide them into a new economic sector where they can do business, according to opinion polling Small Business Majority released last week. The poll found that 71 percent believe government investments in clean energy play an important role in creating jobs now. Even the high-profile bankruptcy of Solyndra, which closed its doors in 2011 after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the federal government, doesn't stop small businesses from supporting energy investments. Fifty-eight percent agree the company's downfall doesn't mean government should ditch efforts to invest in renewable technologies.
Michelle Greenfield, CEO of a 25-employee firm called Third Sun Solar in Athens, Ohio, has been part of the clean energy economy for 14 years. As founder of the Midwest's premier provider of clean energy systems, she believes government investments in energy innovation will make us globally competitive in the renewable sector -- "a sector that's leaving us behind," she said. "And another driving force behind innovation is allowing the EPA to regulate carbon emissions. It causes a surge of activity in our industry, making solar technology more cost competitive. We get new business, companies like ours expand and startups are launched."
Michelle is one of many entrepreneurs who support Environmental Protection Agency requirements to ensure air quality. The poll, which surveyed 600 small business owners across Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, found that 76 percent agree the EPA should determine limits on new power plants' emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Fifty-seven percent say their businesses will be impacted by EPA oversight of such emissions. Nonetheless, support stands: 56 percent support EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions even if it would bring an increase in utility prices.
Carbon pollution rules aren't the only clean air standards small business owners see as beneficial. A vast 82 percent support EPA requirements to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxics from power plants, and the "Good Neighbor Rule," requiring a reduction of smog and soot crossing state lines, garnered support from three-quarters of respondents.
The poll results also help counter ideological rhetoric pervading discussions about government regulation. Entrepreneurs support EPA standards and believe they're conducive to job creation and economic growth -- in other words, they don't view regulation as the bee in their small business bonnet. What's stinging them more is the rising cost of doing business. When asked about their top business concerns, thirty-six percent said high fuel and electricity prices while 34 percent said high material and supply prices. Regulation came in at a distant fifth: only 16 percent said it's one of their top two concerns.
Entrepreneurs want to be part of the competitive, modern economy renewable technologies and clean air standards can create -- but they need help getting there. Running a successful small business is tough, especially during a slow fiscal recovery -- there's just not enough time in the day or money in their pockets for entrepreneurs to innovate their businesses single-handedly. Government investments in renewable technologies and EPA clean air standards can help ensure American entrepreneurs see long-term economic benefits that allow them to retain their status as the backbone of our economy.
John Arensmeyer is the Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority.