Encouraging innovation to bring jobs to North Carolina
By Renee Ellmers
Before I was elected to Congress last fall, I had spent over 21 years as a registered nurse caring for patients and helping people reach their full potential. In my new position in Washington, I’m using those same skills to create jobs and get our economy back on track. I’ve been in Congress for only a few months now, but I have already learned that nothing worthwhile can be accomplished easily and there is much work to do, starting with jobs and small businesses.
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and the provider of millions of jobs across North Carolina. Through non-profit groups and business cooperatives, businesses can succeed and give back to their community while remaining self-sufficient. I learned this first-hand as a founding board member of South River EMC’s Community Assistance Corporation in Dunn. We partnered with the co-op’s Operation Round Up program, which gives members the opportunity to round up their electric bill to the next dollar. Added together, these pennies turn into major dollars that are invested back in the community in the form of education grants. To date, Operation Round Up nationally has raised over $50 million to better the lives of countless people and families.
Now, we must expand the scope of our efforts if we are to create jobs and bring sustainable prosperity back to North Carolina. We must give entrepreneurs the tools to create valuable products while preventing government bureaucracy and costs from stymieing growth. I have been working with my colleagues on the House Small Business Committee to put forth new initiatives and get the ball rolling.
One of these initiatives — the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR), created in 1982 — has helped feed federal research and development grants to small businesses, the country’s best innovators. The objectives of the SBIR program are threefold: to increase stimulation of technological innovation in the small business sector, to utilize this community to meet the diverse research and development needs of the federal government, and to commercialize federally funded results, such as transforming a bomb disposal robot for the military to a vacuum robot for the public.
Not only do great products and services develop from the program, so do quality jobs. Since 2006, over 427 awards were granted to small businesses throughout the state, resulting in thousands of jobs and increased business through innovation. Better still, the SBIR program does not cost taxpayers any additional dollars. The program simply requires that federal agencies slice out a small percentage within their overall budget for which small firms can compete.
It is because of my experiences with co-ops, small businesses and community-sustaining programs in the private sector that I am advocating for these programs to continue to allow innovation and investment to springboard ideas, create jobs and spur economic growth.