The narrative is a familiar one: Large corporations leverage their size and threaten to outsource jobs to get out of paying taxes. Case in point: Carrier Corporation, a furnace manufacturer with a plant in Indianapolis, is receiving $5 million in tax credits over the next decade for agreeing to keep more than 1,000 jobs at its domestic plant instead of moving production to Mexico, The Indianapolis Star reports.
At its surface, this deal appears solid. After all, 89 percent of top economists believe outsourcing harms the economy, according to a report by Statistic Brain. But it’s not a sustainable solution. Rather, it’s a message to large corporations that the U.S. is willing to offer substantial tax breaks to prevent them from moving operations abroad, putting negotiating power in the hands of big business.
The real victim of this corporate hostage crisis is the middle class. The Pew Research Center points out that from 1999 to 2014, median household income in the U.S. fell by 8 percent. In addition, a 2016 Gallup study conducted with the U.S. Council on Competitiveness determined that since 2007, U.S. GDP per capita has grown by just 1 percent. The Great Recession may be over, but America is virtually running on empty.
If large corporations can’t be counted on to inject life into the middle class, what (or who) will? Entrepreneurs, the time has come to save the day.
Counteracting erosion with entrepreneurship.
Entrepreneurs play a vital role in the American economy -- in fact, the U.S. Small Business Administration says businesses with fewer than 100 employees currently employ more than one-third of the working age population. To ward off economic stagnation, it’s up to a nation of innovative thinkers and small business owners to take steps that provide paths of upward mobility.
The most obvious way an entrepreneur can aid the economy is through expanding his or her workforce. Although hiring employees can seem like an unnecessary expense for entrepreneurs who think they can go it alone, the truth is that having others on board allows for collaboration that can more than double your creative output.
In addition, competition between entrepreneurs breeds innovation, which contributes to economic development. It’s a positive feedback loop that benefits all: Innovative entrepreneurs spur positive change as they create products or services designed to erase systemic inefficiencies in healthcare, agriculture and other inefficiencies that weigh down the economy.
In the areas of autonomy and artificial intelligence, entrepreneurs play a vital role in helping the U.S. economy remain at the forefront of advancing new technology -- both will not only be at the forefront of big changes to the global economy, but they’ll also help upgrade and enhance the lifestyle of consumers and the operational efficiencies of businesses.
When the economy wins, entrepreneurs win. Beyond opening up opportunities for job growth, there are several strategies entrepreneurs can implement in their own businesses to combat the effects of outsourcing:
1. Work to create innovation zones.
Entrepreneurs across the country should strive to replicate what Silicon Valley offers: a concentrated network of resources, innovation and top performers that work to create new products and services.
Individuals can help create innovation zones by accelerating business models and networking with peers in their areas through attending cross-industry meetups or joining shared workspaces. Of course, beyond helping create a strong local or regional network of innovation and entrepreneurship, these activities also benefit business leaders: Connections lead to opportunities, which lead to more sales or brand exposure.
And when you work together with other business owners to create a strong network, it has an accumulative effect, attracting more and more businesses to your area (which means more jobs and an even greater push for innovation).
Boulder, Colorado, for instance, has seen the effects of fostering an innovation zone. The city -- home to investor Brad Feld and startups like Spyder, SurveyGizmo and Simple Energy -- has the highest density of tech startups in the country, according to a recent New Engine/Kauffman Foundation research report.
2. Become an involved citizen.
If small businesses and startups are collectively the backbone of the American economy, it’s your duty as a business owner to advocate for measures that foster entrepreneurship and make it easier for American businesses to find success.
One example of legislation that benefits small business owners is the PATH Act of 2015. This act made research and development eligible for tax credits, benefiting all businesses that commercially sell software, as well as those with engineers, scientists or product developers on staff.
While no state government has been able to artificially recreate a true Silicon Valley environment, they are starting to realize that providing incentives and possibly even funding for new business ventures can help keep them competitive in the national economy. As a business owner, get out and vote in your own favor!
Follow the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee for regular updates on relevant measures; to learn when voting will occur; and for guidance concerning which Congress members to engage with. Another great resource to consult is the Financial Policy Council, an organization in which I serve as a board co-chair. The FPC seeks to educate entrepreneurs on how to ensure policymakers hear their opinions.
3. Give your workforce the tools to succeed in the future.
No matter the industry, it’s important to stay on top of skills that might be needed in the future. Designing a plan to continue employee education is vital, whether it means setting aside funds for classes or certifications; connecting with other business leaders to organize regular workshops; or discussing future industry changes with customers and industry leaders.
These actions are mutually beneficial for your employees and your business -- your employees will be poised to succeed in the evolving economy, and your company will be able to better identify and respond to new needs in the marketplace. On a broader scale, by ensuring your employees remain on the cutting edge when it comes to their skill sets, you'll be doing a small part to ensure the American workforce remains a valuable entity in the years to come.
Of course, the skills needed in the future vary by industry. But technological advances in artificial intelligence mean it’s a pretty safe bet that future employers will need skills like quality assurance and monitoring, as well as cognitive decision-making. After all, of the 5.5 million job openings in the U.S., half a million are in tech, according to a CNBC source.
Large corporations may employ huge numbers, but the reality is that small businesses collectively have a lot of power. By banding together and working to create strong networks of innovation and competition, entrepreneurs can positively impact the American economy, making large strides toward combating outsourcing and other harmful strategies pursued by big business. Entrepreneurs, are you up for the challenge?