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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. LANDRIEU. Mr. President, I come to the floor today during National Small Business Week to discuss a strong, widely-supported bill that I filed today with the help of Senators LIEBERMAN, KERRY, and HARKIN. Over the past several months, as Chair of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I have held three roundtables focused on strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the United States. We heard from entrepreneurs, small business owners, academics, local and Federal officials, and regulators, and we built quite a long list of strong ideas that we can implement or facilitate legislatively. I have converted many of these ideas into legislative proposals that I will file this week and markup soon in my Committee.

We have included several of such proposals in Today's Entrepreneurs are America's Mentors Act, or what I refer to as the TEAM Act. The TEAM Act addresses the domain of ``Mentorship'' in our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Its four provisions aim to nurture young Americans' innate entrepreneurial skills from the elementary school classroom through postgraduate business school and onward. We want to create jobs, and for posterity's sake we must begin with our young entrepreneurs. This bill will strengthen America's entrepreneurial ecosystem by empowering the Small Business Administration's, SBA, Office of Entrepreneurial Education, OEE, and invigorating students of all ages, entrepreneurs and mentors throughout the country. We want you to join the TEAM.

President Bush created the SBA OEE administratively in 2008. Currently, the OEE receives $131,000 in annual funding. This OEE funding sustains its oversight of the successful SCORE nonprofit association, comprised of 11,500 volunteer business counselors throughout the United States. The TEAM Act will formally authorize the SBA OEE and create a program, aside from overseeing SCORE, to conduct entrepreneurial education outreach and mentorship in K 12 schools and will be required to work with existing groups in the entrepreneurial education space. These groups are not-for-profit organizations, for-profit companies, community civic organizations, and SBA resource partners. We do not want to reinvent the wheel or allow for some bureaucratic intrusion. We simply want the SBA OEE to act on what its title suggests and coordinate among these already successful groups and facilitate and sustain the great momentum they have built in entrepreneurial education.

Second, the OEE will administer a scholarship program for MBA students to counsel local startup companies and small businesses. With a $1,500 scholarship, 100 MBA students from around the country could share what they are learning in business school with small business owners near the school. The selected applicants would offer free technical assistance, TA, financial planning, and sustainable business practices. This scholarship program would scale up on the national level a successful program pioneered by the Idea Village in New Orleans. We know something about innovative entrepreneurship in Louisiana: Forbes magazine named New Orleans the ``Biggest Brain Magnet'' of 2011 and the second ``Best City for Jobs;'' in 2010, the Brookings Institute reported that the entrepreneurial activity in New Orleans is 40 percent above the national average; and Inc. Magazine called New Orleans the ``Coolest Startup City in America.'' With all that said, I do not mind borrowing a few good ideas from the innovators in my hometown.

Third, the OEE would, in consultation with the Secretary of Education, give Congress a report on a possible correlation between record high student debt and record high youth unemployment and whether or not student debt deters someone from starting a business. If the OEE does find a correlation, the study should provide Congress some recommendations for legislation to address it in a manner that assists entrepreneurship.

Finally, the TEAM Act also requires the SBA to sponsor competitions, through its ten Regional Offices, in which local entrepreneurs, inventors, and small businesses compete to solve local public-private challenges. There would be a $50,000 grant for each region's winning idea. The idea for these ten competitions is modeled after both the ``Water Challenge'' sponsored by New Orleans's Idea Village and the national mobile app competition for college students run by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Now that you understand the provisions in the TEAM Act, let me read out a long list of supporters. These organizations have been instrumental in providing my Committee with their ideas and perspectives on how best to help young entrepreneurs with this legislation. Most are national groups that have worked for decades on teaching young Americans entrepreneurship and the importance of financial literacy and good business practices. Others are local, but nationally recognized groups with a national impact on jobs creation.

The TEAM Act has also received endorsements from Girl Scouts of America, Venture for America, and Mayor's Office, City of New Orleans.

We urge all of my colleagues here in the Senate to join us on the TEAM to promote entrepreneurial education and nurture the entrepreneurial spirit inside all young Americans. The TEAM Act will help students, entrepreneurs, and small business owners in all 50 States.

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