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Opinion Pieces

Reauthorize Key Small Business Programs

What do Sonicare toothbrushes, Roomba iRobots and 70 percent of the computer chips in today’s iPhones have in common?

As a few of our witnesses told the House Small Business Committee earlier this month, they all began with small companies using the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA).

These two initiatives have a proven track record of success in helping America’s small businesses compete and succeed in the global technology marketplace.
That is why our committee has begun the process of renewing SBIR and STTR before they are slated to expire next year.

Unless they are reauthorized by Congress, both programs will expire, putting America’s small businesses at a serious competitive disadvantage. That’s why we’re going to work together to make sure that doesn’t happen, and get these programs reauthorized sooner rather than later. SBIR is a rare example of a federal program that is more relevant today than when it was created. Unlike many such programs, taxpayers consistently get their money’s worth from the SBIR -- and then some. Congress has been able to modernize the program through reauthorizations over the last three decades, ensuring its success and providing a sharp contrast with bloated programs that have failed to deliver for small businesses.

We have been committed to advancing policies that will help American innovators as they develop the latest cutting-edge technology and get their products to market.

In this era of globalization, making it easier for small businesses to develop and commercialize new, innovative products is essential for both our economic security and our national security.

SBIR and STTR investments are an important part of this effort because their awards go to small innovators at the forefront of today’s scientific and technological revolution. Deservedly, the programs have long enjoyed bipartisan support, both on our Committee and throughout the halls of Congress.

There are more than 28 million small businesses in the United States which create about 7 out of every 10 new jobs and employ half the private sector workforce.Small businesses tend to be more nimble and better able to respond to market changes than their bigger counterparts, particularly when it comes to science and technology. This advantage has allowed small business to drive the innovation sector and make the United States more agile and competitive in the global economy.

Washington has always been criticized for lurching from crisis to crisis and striking last-minute, 11th-hour deals to pass important legislation, and that criticism is often deserved. By getting a jump start on reauthorizing these two key programs, we can start to break this bad habit while giving stability and predictability to thousands of entrepreneurs.

Our work on SBIR/STTR is already underway. This month, our Committee held a series of hearings where we heard from innovators from all walks of life about how valuable these awards have been to them and how much they would be helped by early reauthorization and the certainty it brings. Our Committee is set to approve a bipartisan reauthorization measure later this month.

Entrepreneurs constantly tell us that they need more certainty from Washington so they can better plan for the future. For many of them, a big part of that future is their innovation outlook and their research and development schedules. Congress and President Obama recognized this fundamental truth at the end of last year when we made permanent the Research and Development tax credit for small businesses.

Early reauthorization of SBIR and STTR would give similar certainty and predictability to our tech entrepreneurs so they can focus on getting their products to market, creating jobs and spurring economic growth.

Certainty and predictability breed confidence. As Speaker Ryan recognized when he announced the House GOP’s “Confident America” focus, restoring confidence in the American economy is key. Nowhere is confidence a bigger factor than with entrepreneurship.

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s Founding Fathers and an accomplished inventor once famously said, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

We won’t put off until tomorrow what our small businesses are asking that we do today.

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