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Thursday May 12, 2011

Hearing from Entrepreneurs Around the Country

Guest Blog by USPTO Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea

A copy of this post also appeared on the White House Blog

In his January State of the Union, President Barack Obama outlined the importance of investing in American infrastructure and innovation in order to remain competitive in a global economy. With those goals for our country in mind, it has been nothing short of a privilege and an honor to work along side our spectacular team here at the USPTO. As we work to examine the groundbreaking ideas that will create the next generation of jobs, I wanted to know, as Deputy Director of the USPTO, what more we could do as a country, to make sure small businesses and innovators everywhere thrive.

The economic security and vitality of the United States has always been deeply rooted in American innovation. The story of our growth has been written by the daring drive of entrepreneurs who were willing to roll the dice on just an idea.  That’s why the Obama Administration launched Startup America, a White House-led initiative to accelerate the success of entrepreneurs throughout the Nation.  

Over the past month, I have had the privilege of hearing from bold thinkers around the country and have learned that vital to 21st century growth is a 21st century infrastructure—one that readily allows small businesses to protect, promote, and preserve their ideas throughout the marketplace.

In order to hear ideas directly from entrepreneurs, senior Administration officials have traveled to cities throughout the Nation, holding Startup America: Reducing Barriers roundtable discussions and assessing what Federal regulations should be changed to create an environment most conducive to small business growth and job creation.  That’s why we are currently working with Congress to pass the America Invents Act, which aims to simplify the process of securing patent rights and empower small and independent inventors to distribute their ideas, products, and tools faster.

A couple weeks ago in Pittsburgh I had the opportunity to hear ideas ranging from student loan repayment programs for entrepreneurs to stronger tax incentives for companies with responsible energy efficiency standards.  At the heart of our conversation, though, was the underlying need to further build, educate, and train the manufacturing workforce that supports so much of Pittsburgh’s local economy. Whether through tax credits for companies or educational programs, it was clear that the hardworking businesses in this heart of Pennsylvania weren’t expecting overnight solutions, but were instead genuinely seeking ways to make the business environment a little easier for their enterprises to grow and their economy to flourish.    

At a roundtable event last Monday in Atlanta, an attendee suggested providing small amounts of seed funding for early-stage entrepreneurs to lift their businesses off the ground.  Other small business owners suggested that streamlining the application process for procuring government contracts could put contractors to work more efficiently. 

At every stop along the way, I and other Administration colleagues have been motivated by the innovative ideas and proposals we’ve heard from small business owners. And as we invest in the building blocks of innovation and growth to create the jobs necessary to win the future, we want to continue these conversations to identify the most feasible solutions.   

This week we are visiting Boulder and today I’m travelling to Silicon Valley, the final two stops on our roundtable tour.  But that doesn’t mean we’re done taking input.  In order to receive more ideas from an even greater number of entrepreneurs, we have created an online tool that is quick and easy to use.  This tool lets everyone suggest ideas and vote on the proposed solutions they think are the most important. 

After these roundtable events, we will take the feedback we have received and present a list of the most important proposed changes in a report to the President.   My dialogue with innovators in Pittsburgh and Atlanta have added perspective from Main Street to the approach the Obama Administration and the USPTO are taking to lead the way in creating 21st century business opportunities for our country. Stay tuned as we continue that conversation with entrepreneurs and hear about how we can help them drive economic growth and create much needed jobs.

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