|WIPP Economic Blueprint|
The Economic Blueprint sets a bold, comprehensive set of public policy expectations on behalf of the women business owner community. According to Merriam Webster, a “Blueprint” is a detailed plan or program of action – and that perfectly describes the purpose and intent of this document.
Over the course of the past year, significant energy and commitment has been invested in focus groups, surveys and forums on priority business issues with women business owners nationwide. This enormous information gathering effort serves as the glue to the entire Blueprint process. The Economic Blueprint expresses our voice and our interests regarding the pressing business challenges that require action by our elected officials.
The Blueprint’s Economic Agenda: Seven Core Areas Essential to Women-Owned Business Growth
The Principles are the cornerstone of this Blueprint: economic principles, access to capital, procurement, healthcare, energy & environment, telecommunications & technology, and export & trade– these are the issues that we will be aggressively pursuing with specific focus and plans. The power of these principles is that they represent the issues this community cares most about – and that have the most impact on our ability to grow our companies.
The Force Behind the Blueprint:
Women business owners are a powerful constituency.
As a community we have been active participants in advocacy since the 1970s and have had a significant impact on the legislative agenda for over 30 years. We take the process seriously. We understand the importance of relationships with Democrats, Republicans and Independents and scrupulously maintain a nonpartisan approach to advocacy.
Women business owners are a formidable voting bloc.
We vote. Our endorsements have weight. A poll commissioned in 2008 by the Economic Blueprint and conducted by Lake Research Partners and the polling company, inc. found that women small business owners were nearly unanimous in their intent to vote in the November election. In addition, by wide margins, the data reported that women small business owners across demographic groups place a significant degree of trust in the endorsements of women small business owners.
In the 2012 elections, women played a decisive role, representing 53% of the electorate. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, women hold 18.3% of the 535 seats, or 98 seats in the 113th US Congress. WIPP’s nonpartisan message allows us to seamlessly advocate for women business owners.
Women business owners are an economic force.
Women business owners are a strong economic force in the United States and increasingly in the world. Their contributions extend beyond the number of firms they own, the people they employ, or even the revenues they generate. Their influence is multiplied many times through the direct and indirect economic impact they generate through their business ownership.
The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: A Summary of Important Trends, 1997-2012, published in March 2012 and commissioned by American Express OPEN is based on data from the four most recent business census surveys of 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2013.
The following estimates for the state of women-owned firms in 2013 show that in spite of the recession, the number of women-owned firms has grown and women-owned firms have held steady in revenue and employment.
Who We Are: A Collaborative Effort
We advocate on behalf of our coalition of 4.7 million business women including 75 business organizations. We are successful women business owners, leaders in our communities and visionaries who are trailblazers in policy and politics. We have within our ranks Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, liberals, conservatives, and every variety of opinion. What we share in common is our focus on economic issues that impact our ability to continue to be the economic engine and force in our nation’s economy.
The History Behind the Blueprint
There are numerous pioneering women whose relentless pursuit of advocacy goals has made a huge difference in the successes of women business owners today. Through their efforts, the legislative “Big Bang” of 1988, H.R. 5050 was made possible. This legislation continues to have impact today. H.R. 5050 addressed issues of access to credit, improved census data collection on women-owned businesses, and created the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC), a bipartisan federal advisory council. In addition, H.R. 5050 provided for training support with the creation of women’s business centers. Between 2001 and 2003 alone, this support has resulted in the creation of 6,600 firms and 12,719 jobs with a collective economic impact of $500 million in gross receipts and $51.4 million in profits.
Much has been accomplished but much remains to be done. Our history provides a compelling narrative of persistence and focus to achieve strategically set objectives. This is the legacy behind the Economic Blueprint, and it serves as a powerful motivator for what we have set out to accomplish with the Blueprint process and our Economic Principles.
Roadmap to the Future
The Economic Blueprint serves as an immediate call to action. But our sights are also on the future – looking to 2020 and beyond. One specific undertaking, The Roadmap to 2020, is designed to fuel the growth of women’s business development in the United States from 2009 to 2020. We are also actively engaged in establishing our role in the global economy. Increasingly our successes are being used as role models for the development of women-owned businesses in other parts of the world, which make us tremendous goodwill ambassadors for the United States. Our role model status also fosters our ability to compete successfully in international markets, which is a key component of our overall Blueprint vision. We are trendsetters, and as such, our work is already setting the agenda for the future.
As the American economy continues to recover, government and private sector efforts should focus on increasing investments that drive the recovery. Policymakers are responsible for ensuring the business environment is conducive to growth and the federal government operates effectively.
1) Investment in Entrepreneurship Pays Off
Nearly 30% of American businesses are women-owned, a segment growing at twice the rate of other businesses. Critical support for these entrepreneurs includes access to credit, access to the federal sector and access to training and counseling. Doing so will maximize their already sizable impact: contributing $1.2 trillion annually to the economy and employing 7.6 million Americans.
2) Provide Women-Owned Businesses with Certainty in Economic Policy and Regulations
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses pay 36% more in regulatory compliance than larger firms. This problem is exacerbated by the government’s inability to provide long-term policies on which businesses can rely. The impacts of sequestration and the resulting delay in contractor pay forced many companies to the brink of closure--despite decades of work.
Outdated regulations burden business owners. The President’s agency review identified 500 duplicative regulations and removing them should be a priority for the Administration. Conversely, necessary regulations that implement small business policy should be put in place. More than 20 provisions from the FY13 NDAA specifically focusing on small businesses are awaiting final action. WIPP urges agencies tasked with implementing important legislation to do so expeditiously.
3) Focus on Responsible Federal Spending
WIPP encourages Congress and the Administration to work together to make difficult fiscal choices necessary to reduce the deficit, ensure spending cuts are equitable, and guard against revenue raising tactics that result in a wholesale tax on small businesses. Cuts to government programs should be targeted and appropriate, in a manner that supports business growth. Similarly, Congress should encourage growth by creating a simpler and fairer tax code.
Access to Capital Principles
Since first identified as an issue for women business owners in the National Women’s Business Council report to Congress in 1989, access to capital remains a barrier to the growth of successful women-owned businesses. According to the SBA Office of Advocacy, the “major constraint limiting the growth, expansion and wealth creation,” of women-owned businesses is “inadequate capital.”
1) Provide Incentives to Investors & Lenders to Small Businesses
At a time when private market lending to small businesses remains low, WIPP is encouraged by SBA’s guaranteed loan programs, which for the last three years have hit record highs. WIPP strongly supports recently announced SBA initiatives to deploy more capital into the hands of small businesses. While the need for capital continues to be a top priority for WIPP members, important alternatives to the traditional sources of capital exist, such as crowdfunding. We urge the Securities and Exchange Commission to finalize the regulatory requirements necessary to put crowdfunding into place.
2) Increase Business Training and Counseling
Critical to the success of many women-owned businesses is business assistance from both private and public sources. Public resources, such as Women’s Business Centers, receive government grants to provide business assistance to women business owners. In FY2013, Women’s Business Centers delivered assistance at a cost of just $133 per entrepreneur. The Congress should fund more of these centers and increase grants.
3) Collect Lending Data on Women Business Owners
Four years ago, the Dodd-Frank law (P.L. 111-203) directed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to collect data on small business lending, including gender- and race-specific data. To date, none has been collected. Without good data, making sound policy decisions on improving deployment of capital to entrepreneurs are hampered.
In FY2013, only 4.3% of all government contracts were awarded to women-owned businesses, even though federal law mandates a 5% government-wide procurement goal for women-owned small businesses.
1) Improve the Women-Owned Small Business Procurement Program
WIPP urges all agencies to fully utilize the program to award prime contracts to women-owned firms. WIPP supports a further improvement in the WOSB procurement program by granting sole source authority to contracting officers utilizing the WOSB procurement program. The disparity study on which the WOSB procurement program is based should be updated.
2) Increase Goals for Small Business Contracting
Federal agencies work toward meeting their small business goals. Increasing the goal of 23% to 25% of all federal contracts will push the agencies to increase contracting with their small business dollars.
3) Ensure Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiatives Support Women-Owned Businesses
The continued effort to implement “strategic sourcing” in government procurement has not fully taken into consideration the damaging impact on small businesses. WIPP urges Congress to ensure that procurement reforms, including government-wide acquisition initiatives like strategic sourcing, take into consideration impacts on government contractors while supporting the government’s fundamental goal of getting “best value” in federal procurement.
Small businesses face higher administrative and premium costs for health insurance. This puts women entrepreneurs at an inherent disadvantage as business owners and as employers seeking to retain competitive employees. Congress and the Administration should implement the healthcare reforms targeting this inequity, and, where necessary, make improvements to the Affordable Care Act.
1) Ensure Health Insurance Exchanges Provide More Choices and Better Prices for Small Businesses
2014 marked the launch of health insurance exchanges. Since many elements of the SHOP program for small businesses were not ready for the initial launch, women business owners must wait for the 2015 enrollment period. Federal and state governments should work with the small business community to make sure the next enrollment process supports employers and employees. New legislation that improves on already existing healthcare reforms should also be considered.
2) Close the Coverage Gap that Denies the Lowest Paid Workers Access to Health Insurance
The 2012 Supreme Court ruling allowed states to opt out of providing Medicaid to individuals below 133% of poverty. In many states, failure to expand Medicaid has denied low-wage workers access to health insurance while higher paid workers are eligible for tax credits, which subsidize their premiums. WIPP supports closing this “coverage gap” both because it is fair and because healthy workers are more productive.
3) Cost Containment Measures Should Address Increased Healthcare Costs
One of the major drivers behind healthcare reform was the need to control increasing healthcare costs. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, healthcare spending has grown at an average annual rate of 9.6%, 2.4 percentage points faster than nominal GDP since 1970. The federal government projects that by the year 2018 health spending will be one-fifth of the GDP.
Cost containment measures are needed to address increased healthcare costs. Furthermore, wellness and preventive care should be a priority of the providers as well as the consumers of healthcare.
Energy & Environment Principles
Small businesses are at the forefront of technological innovations in the areas of energy and environment. Their innovative solutions should play a role in the larger energy revolution.
1) Develop a Comprehensive Energy Plan
The federal government should develop a comprehensive energy plan, one that incorporates the use and deployment of domestic energy and alternative energy sources. At the same time, the government should balance the need for smart energy regulations without compromising small businesses’ ability to compete.
2) Continue to Provide Research & Development Incentives
Small businesses are on the cutting edge of developing new energy technologies. The federal government should continue to provide adequate funding and incentives for small businesses to continue to develop new technologies through grants and public/private sector investments.
Telecommunications & Technology Principles
According to the SBA Office of Advocacy, small firms pay as much as double the amount for telecommunications services than other firms when operating their businesses, while women-owned and minority-owned media remain under-represented.
1) Extend the Internet Tax Moratorium
Congress has consistently imposed a moratorium on the imposition of (new) state and local taxes on Internet access. Expiring in 2014, the Internet Tax Freedom Act should be renewed. Additional taxes will stifle innovation and restrict access to the Internet.
2) Increase Women and Minority Media Ownership
The government and private industry should work together to increase the number of commercial television and radio stations owned by women and minorities. A major impediment to minority/women-owned stations is access to capital.
Export & Trade Principles
The National Export Initiative seeks to double small business exports, including women entrepreneurs. Federal agencies provide support to exporting businesses in the forms of loan guarantees, global market research and general export counseling. Federal agencies should complement non-profit and private export assistance to small businesses.
1) Streamline the Federal Compliance Requirements to Export
It is important that the documentation and reporting requirements of exporting be clearly defined for women-owned businesses. They should be able to easily find answers to the many questions involved with international business on Export.gov.
2) Protect Innovation and Intellectual Property Abroad
Women business owners are anxious to access new markets for their goods and services. They are, however, wary of an international trading system that lacks basic protections of their patents, trademarks and copyrights. Trade policies should include protections that address the concerns and encourage women entrepreneurs to feel confident engaging in export.