federal programs that had responsibilities in regional innovation. Most of these programs, she said, were in the Departments of Labor, Commerce, Energy, and the SBA, with additional elements being added by the Recovery Act. “You see how all these endeavors are designed to do the same broad thing,” she said: “Drive innovation and create jobs. We know that 70 percent of new jobs are created by small businesses. About 50 percent of the population either owns a small business or is employed by one.”

An Umbrella Structure in the Federal Government

She said that large companies have already found the necessity to compete globally, and to locate their assets around the world. “Who’s going to create the good-paying jobs here in America?” she asked. “They’re going to be innovation-driven companies that grow to be our new foundation for competitiveness. We have to think, “Where in the federal government is that initiative going to live?” The answer is that it is going to live in multiple places, so we need to create an umbrella structure that will make that a priority. That initiative is now in formation. This is the moment. The piece that’s missing is not the understanding that this will be the underpinning, but the structure that puts it there.”

She concluded her brief talk by asking the participants for their input on designing a “structure that will let us turn innovation into jobs.” This is especially urgent in towns and regions hard-hit by the recession, she said. “It is not going to be a perfect structure,” she said, “nor necessarily elegant, but we have the opportunity to do a number of things that are going to bring together all of these programs in a powerful way.”

Discussion

Christina Gabriel of the Heinz Endowments asked about working with the SBA. She noted that the programs supported by the SBA did not always fit the small high-tech companies that were trying to grow out of universities or other companies. In particular, she said, banks and other lenders tended to label technology companies as high-risk, greatly reducing their chances of funding when compared with companies that do not have this label, such as a food franchise. Ms. Mills tried to clarify the situation by describing two kinds of small business. “There are Main Street small business, and a high-growth, high-impact small business,” she said. “They have different needs.” She said that the SBA has always had many programs that deal with “the restaurant on Main Street. It’s gonna close, it’s gonna open, and when it opens it needs an SBA loan to do the new fixtures. All of that churn we support and if we don’t, we won’t have those jobs.”



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