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Connolly and Kind: Refuel U.S. Innovation Engine to Spur Job Growth

Throughout our history, the innovative spirit of the American people stands as one of America’s greatest assets. Whether it is the ideals on which our nation was founded or the technology that propels our economy today, America always sets the standard.

As we encounter an ever-growing global economy in the 21st century, we have work to do to ensure America remains the most competitive, innovative country in the world.

While the private sector must take the lead in training a skilled workforce and producing a world-class product, the government has a role to play, too. Not only can the government partner with businesses and entrepreneurs to spur private-sector growth, but it can also help lay the foundation for the next generation to build on our success.

Our businesses, particularly our small and medium-sized businesses, which have led economic growth and innovation, need assistance to hire skilled employees and maintain growth in the long run.

Supporting research programs for startups and entrepreneurs will help launch new economic engines. Providing increased access to capital, both in public markets and through private sources such as venture capital, will help businesses develop new products, support a growing workforce and expand at home and abroad.

Moreover, support for research and development by and within American business is essential to retaining our competitive edge. Policies that promote investments in R&D will help our businesses develop technological improvements, innovate and compete worldwide.

That is why the New Democrat Coalition is advancing an agenda that renews our nation’s commitment to partnering with the private sector to foster ingenuity to enable future scientists and entrepreneurs to grow and succeed.

One way the government can ensure America’s future economic competitiveness is by investing in the next generation. U.S. colleges and universities rank 27th globally for graduates with science or engineering degrees. By investing in science, technology, engineering and math studies, we can guarantee our students are ready for 21st-century jobs and are educated to excel in the industries critical to America’s future.

Recall that it was only through federal intervention that we were able to level the playing field after the 1957 launch of Sputnik 1 symbolized the Soviet Union’s victory in the opening salvo of the Space Race. Congress, in a bipartisan fashion, responded by doubling R&D spending and tripling support for basic research. Those investments in innovation are still bearing fruit today: the Apollo Program, the Internet and touch-screen technology, to name just a few.

We must continue to build on the successful partnerships that have supported basic research on our college campuses and developed new technology within the private sector.

Government can also play an important role in removing the barriers to success that our businesses so often encounter.

Current immigration policies bring foreign students to America’s college campuses in large numbers and then force them to return to their native homelands, where they then apply their new skills to become entrepreneurs for America’s global competitors. New policies should support more green cards for highly trained students from U.S. institutions. We need to develop opportunities for foreign entrepreneurs who want to work and invest here and, in turn, foster a skilled, innovative workforce.

As the president recently noted, our nation is at a pivotal point. Our ability to out-educate and out-innovate our competition hinges on the federal government’s ability to lay a strong foundation for growth but also to partner with our educators and entrepreneurs so that they have the resources and support to propel our scientific, technological and economic pre-eminence.

Reps. Gerry Connolly (Va.) and Ron Kind (Wis.) are co-chairmen of the New Democrat Coalition’s Task Force on Innovation, Competitiveness and Tax Reform.

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