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Commentary: Recently passed bill would improve business opportunities for women- and minority-owned firms

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi administers the House oath of office to Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Laguna Beach) during ceremonial swearing-in on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 3.
(Photo by Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

It’s no secret that research and technology have fundamentally changed the global economy. Advances in artificial intelligence and computing power have unlocked human potential and revolutionized the way people work and communicate.

But innovation and change can’t be concentrated in large corporations when 99% of American firms are small businesses. We need to promote policies that stimulate research and development in small business and then help them bring those innovations to market.

That’s why I am honored to author House Resolution 206, the Encouraging Small Business Innovation Act of 2019, which passed the House of Representatives unanimously on Jan. 14. As a businessman and entrepreneur, I know how hard it is for companies to invest in their ideas and then bring them to market.

The act will empower small businesses by including small business investment companies as potential investors in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. These two programs invested over $34 million in our district since 2011 and stand to invest more with the passage of H.R. 206.


But that’s not all. The bill also increases the capital available for private investors by excluding the amount of any investment made to SBIR/STTR participants. And funding isn’t the only issue my bill addresses.

We know that the lack of competition and diversity continue to raise concerns with both programs. The act addresses both issues by allowing agencies to use part of their SBIR allocation to conduct outreach to women- and minority-owned firms by removing a statutory waiver requirement.

California’s 48th District is home to hundreds of small businesses that stand to gain from this new investment and increased diversity. We can expand the reach and scope of these programs and take our research efforts and economic growth to new heights.

I’m proud to shepherd such important legislation through the House and look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate and the president to deliver for the people of California’s 48th District.


U.S. Rep. Harley Rouda, a Democrat, lives in Laguna Beach.