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An entrepreneurship expert’s wish list from the Idaho legislative session

Norris Krueger

A few months back, the Idaho Business Review brought together a cross-section of Idaho’s governmental leaders. Over and over, we heard an amazing message: They ARE listening to Idaho’s small businesses. They WANT to hear from our entrepreneurs.

Building on that message, here are my 2020 wishes for legislators:

Wish #1: My entrepreneur and small business owner friends will go talk to their legislators. Did You Know the legislature is reviewing EVERY state rule and regulation during this session? And the review has started? If there’s a state rule that is hurting your business, get thee to your legislators. They can tell you what committee will be reviewing that rule. You can testify by email, snail mail, or in person. This is your big chance, also your legislators’ big chance, to make a real difference quickly.

Wish #2: In turn, my big wish for legislators and civic officials is that they listen to what Idaho’s entrepreneurial community is looking for… and hearing what they say, not filtered through power players. What the average business owner wants is often far from what the “experts” say they want.

Good News: Most of these important policy issues do not need legislation. And most need not cost a penny! But how might we make this work? Let’s get started!

·       Briefings/Hearings: What do Idaho’s entrepreneurs and small firms want? What works elsewhere that we can adapt today? Most of all, how can we have rich conversations between the public and private sector? That Idaho Business Review event told us our leaders are ready to listen. Shall we talk? I’ve seen briefings/listening sessions like these around the world – they work and cost little or nothing.

·       Why not an Entrepreneurship/Innovation Caucus? Nearly half of Idaho’s legislators are business owners or otherwise self-employed. This caucus could host the briefings/listenings.

·       The State of Idaho publicly commits to economic policy that is evidence-based and data-driven. Empower someone like the Idaho Women’s Business Center to develop a state-of-the-art innovation/entrepreneurship dashboard.

·       Assemble the Avengers! Convene the experts; reach out around the country to the experts who are waiting for us to invite their help.

·       How about “Entrepreneur Day at the Capitol”? Ask grassroots champions like the new Idaho Women’s Business Center, the Hispanic Chamber, et al. to showcase the rich tapestry of Idaho entrepreneurship.

·       Why not celebrate Idaho’s entrepreneurial potential by having students identify great Idaho Entrepreneurial Heroes in every legislative district? And learn from them?

None of these needs actual legislation, just a “make it so” from leadership… but there are some golden legislative opportunities.

Growing Access to Capital: Hot topic! Though we must keep growing the deal flow (and how do we keep getting better?) here are two easy legislative fixes that people have talked about for years:

At Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s Finance Summit, one recommendation was to let PERSI invest in expansion capital for successful Idaho businesses that want to grow. Good returns with lower risk than venture capital. Many states and countries do this and love it.

Small business set-asides (and for veterans, for women, for rural) are not charity. Ask INL. They dramatically expanded their outreach to underrepresented groups and it paid off. Big time. (P.S. set-asides are budget neutral at worst.)

Growing Innovation State-wide: Idaho could be No. 1 at entrepreneurship/innovation training. We’re connected to best-in-class know-how, so why don’t we commit to that? Bring the world’s experts in to design THE program. Start with K-12 and CTE, then go from there. Start by creating an Innovation Badge for students and teachers. What if all our students learned how to turn ideas into reality? That is a skill that each of us needs.

Growing the Entrepreneurial Community: And grow it in every corner of the state. The IWBC’s Rural Growth Initiative is a big first step. Please Google “Network Kansas,” a program that could translate to Idaho almost overnight. And, yup, they would help us eagerly. This one will cost a little, but why not fund a very high ROI existing program?

Invest More in Highly Cost-Effective Programs: Idaho STEM Action Center (iGEM too).

Even these “legislative” ideas won’t require much, if any, formal legislation. Some will require some investment, yet everything listed here is cost-effective and a guaranteed positive ROI if we do them right.

Somebody asked me what I wanted for Christmas. While I might have my own wish list, first things first. What do I want for Christmas 2020 for my beloved state of Idaho? Which of these do you want to help? You know where to find me!

Norris Krueger is a Goal Champion for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s ESHIP initiative to grow ecosystem building. He is also a leading academic expert on growing entrepreneurial communities, active mentor for Venture Capital.Org and a much-decorated entrepreneurship educator and global consultant to OECD, EU and others. He can be reached at Norris.krueger@gmail.com, on social media or at www.norriskrueger.com/my-last-12-months.

About Norris Krueger