Free Enterprise Staff  | March 4, 2015

The Secret to Economic Growth? 8 Unique Takes

How to “stoke” the economy has been hotly debated since the term was first coined.

Though that remains true today, there is still common ground among business leaders, entrepreneurs, and small business owners when it comes to making the American economy more competitive. You’d be hard-pressed, for instance, to find someone opposed to improving the U.S. education system.

What else do these leaders and drivers of business innovation think needs to be done to help push the economy forward? Because it’s more interesting to hear something firsthand, we’ve compiled a list of quotes from entrepreneurs and business thinkers offering their own opinions on the complex question.

1. As NFL quarterback-turned-entrepreneur Drew Bledsoe said in a #90SecondsWith interview, the complex and often conflicting sets of regulations across the U.S. create an uncertain climate, particularly for entrepreneurs.

“We actually send around checks to state governments for 12 cents and 20 cents and so on, on a regular basis, just to make sure we’re in compliance,” said Bledsoe, the founder of Doubleback Vineyard. “That was kind of surprising.”

2. Donna Harris, the co-founder and co-CEO of 1776, the Washington, D.C.-based global incubator and seed fund, thinks that the nation’s education system would do well from a shakeup.

“We need to more tightly incorporate entrepreneurship into what schools teach, so the way entrepreneurs think is integrated into students’ curriculum,” Harris said in an interview with Free Enterprise. “Once that’s happened at the collegiate level, we need to move that kind of approach further back into the K-12 realm.”

3. General Colin Powell thinks there’s benefit in looking at restrictions we place on the U.S. economic system. During a sit down at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Summit, he said as much, remarking, “I believe in giving the free enterprise system as much freedom as you can, with the necessary amount of regulation, to make sure that it is within the bounds of law and within the bounds in regards of what’s right.”

4. For Google, which routinely comes up against all kinds of regulations across its incredibly diverse business operations, government rules can sometimes get in the way of innovation.

In an interview, Google co-founder Larry Page emphasized how tricky regulations around healthcare can be. “I do worry that we kind of regulate ourselves out of some really great possibilities on the data-mining side [in medicine.],” he said.

5. Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick falls into a similar camp, having had to combat a tangled web of rules and regulations in states across the U.S. “The regulatory systems in place disincentivize innovation,” he said. “It’s intense to fight the red tape.”

6. For Dharani Ramamoorthy, the founder of Xylo Technologies—which was a finalist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Small Business of the Year Award—getting young students interested in subjects they might be intimidated by is essentially important to the country’s long-term economic prospects.

“We need to plant the seeds in high school, so with Xylo, I partnered with the local Chambers of Commerce to help promote science and technology education in our schools,” he told Free Enterprise. “It’s so important that the U.S. become more competitive in the sciences.”

7. Hardly alone in his staunch support for an overhaul of current immigration laws, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg has been an advocate for immigration reform. If the U.S. fails to attract the world’s most talented thinkers, he says, then it risks forfeiting its position at the forefront of the global economy.

“We have a strange immigration policy for a nation of immigrants,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Washington Post editorial. “And it’s a policy unfit for today’s world.”

8. Echoing a sentiment often expressed by Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurial community, Jeff Bezos argued in an interview that the U.S. economy has benefited mightily from a culture that doesn’t fear failure.

“Governments can foster and hinder experimentation,” Bezos told Foreign Affairs. “If you talk to entrepreneurs in the U.S., they’re willing to take risks. If somebody does a start-up and it doesn’t work out, they’ll do another. There’s no stigma associated with failure. That’s not true all over the world.”