By Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer
From our Main streets and central business districts to our industrial parks and farm fields, small businesses are the lifeblood of eastern Iowa communities and economies.
Ensuring they have the support, opportunities and protections they need to thrive is a top priority for me as your congresswoman — and an area in which we’ve made real and bipartisan progress over the last two years.
As a member of the House Small Business Committee and chairwoman of the Rural, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship Subcommittee, I’ve elevated the voices and concerns of Iowa entrepreneurs, and made sure federal officials and policymakers understand exactly what’s happening in our communities.
Last summer, I invited officials from the Small Business Administration to tour the Rodina restaurant and Lion Bridge Brewing Company in Cedar Rapids. I showed them how these wonderful small businesses benefited from SBA counseling and technical expertise, underscoring the need for federal support the administration had proposed cutting.
Thanks to bipartisan advocacy with other Members of Congress around the country, we were able to reverse course and instead we strengthened these programs to help entrepreneurs across Iowa and the country.
Supporting small businesses is one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on, and an area of bipartisan success during my first term.
The first bill I passed as your congresswoman — back in January, 2019, in my first month of the job — was bipartisan legislation to expand the Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs so they’re accessible to more businesses and especially in rural areas. These initiatives provide support and capital for small businesses to engage in federal research and development that could ultimately lead to marketable products.
The bill was ultimately rolled into a larger legislative package and signed into law by the present late last year.
More recently, the House passed my bipartisan State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Improvement Act, which reauthorizes a vital program that helps small businesses grow their export markets for several more years and cuts red tape to make it as user-friendly as possible.
In 2019, STEP supported $974 million in export sales — a return on investment of $54 for every $1 in federal aid and help our state and Iowa small businesses directly.
Even with these successes, there’s still much more work to do.
I’ve introduced bipartisan bills to ensure farmers are able to use loans provided through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to cover rental expenses, equipment and buildings during the coronavirus pandemic; to establish an Office of Emerging Markets within the Small Business Administration; and to protect and educate small business owners on cybersecurity and cyber attacks.
These are bipartisan, common-sense ideas that could make a real difference for Iowa’s economy and our small businesses as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. I’m committed to seeing them through and seeing our communities and entrepreneurs take advantage of them to strengthen our economy.
From restaurant owners and merchants to manufacturers and farmers, small businesses are the heart of our communities and the soul of our economy. I’ll always have their back, and I’ll keep working to make sure Washington hears their concerns.
Abby Finkenauer represents Iowa’s First District in the U.S House of Representatives.