Startup Day Across America

Earlier this month I spent a morning in Alexandria with the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, visiting with Bunker Labs’ many veteran-owned startups at the Capitol Post offices. I held a roundtable discussion with Barbara Carson, the Small Business Administration Associate Administrator for the Office of Veterans Business Development, and some of the veteran entrepreneurs who are taking the basic risk that lies at the heart of America’s promise: starting their own business.

The men and women who told us about the challenges facing their startups are just a few of the 50,000 veterans living in the 8th District who proudly served their country. One of the most important ways we can repay their service is by ensuring they have the tools they need to pursue their dreams in the business world. As the son of an Army veteran, who started our family business thanks in part to help from the G.I. Bill, this is personal to me.

We were also joined by representatives from the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, who spoke of Alexandria’s commitment to supporting both veteran-owned-businesses and the startups which drive much of Northern Virginia’s economic growth.

Photo Credit: Alexandria Chamber of Commerce

The visit was timed to coincide with Startup Day Across America, a bipartisan initiative to raise awareness for entrepreneurial activity and job creation. Startups — particularly younger firms — are the driving force behind most of the new jobs created in the United States, and that means public policy has to catch up to the needs of these innovators. We should be promoting collaboration and looking to eliminate barriers to entry — so that entrepreneurs with good ideas can market them to potential investors and startups can compete on a level field with name-brand corporations.
Congress can take a number of other steps to support startups, including promoting investments in infrastructure, R&D, and future STEM leaders so businesses can grow and thrive. We should look for creative ways to make sustainable and usable capital accessible to entrepreneurs, while also balancing protections for investors. We need to fix our broken immigration system so that we can train and retain the talented workers and entrepreneurs that want to be a part of our country’s economy. And we must work to ensure that women and underrepresented populations have the tools they need to bring their unique voices, leadership, and experiences into the entrepreneurship space.

With veteran Andrew Castrodale, talking about his startup Nautilus Aggregates. Photo courtesy of RedBrickTown

Congress’ job is to foster an environment where Americans can innovate and create, but one of the key challenges of our time is to promote policies that drive increases in prosperity which can be shared broadly among Americans. 
I thank Bunker Labs and its many insightful veteran entrepreneurs for their time, service, and perspective. One of the most important tasks I have in Congress is to engage with my colleagues to seek solutions which support your endeavors, and those of the many other innovative start-ups across Northern Virginia.

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