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Op/ed: Supporting our innovation economy is the key to prosperity


• EDITOR’S NOTE: The Business Times invited Congressional candidates Lois Capps and Abel Maldonado to share their opinions on the economy and jobs. We’ll extend the opportunity to do so to other candidates in hotly contested political races in the region this election season.

By Lois Capps on Aug. 17, 2012

We know that innovation and entrepreneurship are crucial for long-term economic development. Over the years, America’s economy has benefited from strong private and public investments in science, engineering and technology. These investments have led to the creation of millions of jobs in the private sector, built entire industries and propelled the U.S. to leadership in fields such as health care and communications.

I believe that to rebuild our struggling economy, we must sustain and build on these investments. We must adopt smart policies that encourage innovation and economic prosperity. This effort can take shape in many ways.

First, we must provide incentives for small business development. Starting a new business is a risky proposition, but the rewards, for the risk taker and our economy, can be enormous. That’s why since 2009 I’ve voted to enact 18 tax cuts for small businesses, including increasing the deduction for entrepreneurs’ start-up expenses, extending bonus depreciation, zeroing capital gains taxes on key small business investments and enacting 100 percent expensing.

Second, we have to support basic research and development. I’ve long been a supporter of making the R&D tax credit permanent to encourage new technologies and breakthroughs in communications, energy, medicine, transportation and other key industries.

And I strongly believe in directly funding research at our universities. UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo depend on federal funding to conduct cutting edge research in everything from computer science to agriculture to renewable energy. That research has led to many new technologies, out of which have arisen many new local businesses, such as Transphorm and Cree Lighting. Proposals circulating in Washington to slash university-based research are shortsighted and self-defeating.

Third, we must support innovative public-private partnerships. For example, the Cal Poly Technology Park connects high-tech entrepreneurs with the resources and experience of the university’s faculty and students. I helped secured federal funding for the park, also home to the local Small Business Development Center, because I knew it would provide valuable training and resources for aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses, which it has. I also introduced the Entrepreneurial Training Improvement Act to help increase the availability of free entrepreneurial training through local Workforce Investment Boards.

We see local support for these efforts in exciting new partnerships like the Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet and the Green Coast Innovation Zone. While still in their early stages, these initiatives will bring together public and private resources to promote the establishment and growth of local high-tech companies in the region.

Fourth, we need an educated workforce. Last year I hosted a one-day conference in Washington, D.C. with Central Coast business leaders from companies such as Anasys Instruments, Social Intelligence and LifeCel to discuss job creation and economic growth. These leaders consistently emphasized the importance of strengthening our education system to address the serious shortage of qualified workers. We need to build a stronger workforce of not only engineers and computer scientists, but also of machinists, mechanics and construction workers who are fully trained in high-tech systems and products.

It’s why I’ve long supported increasing Pell Grants and keeping student interest rates low to make higher education more affordable. It’s also why I’ve supported efforts to get more of our kids into science, technology, engineering and math and helped secure federal funding for innovative education at the community colleges in the area.

We must continue to encourage and support innovation and entrepreneurship through smart public policies. It will build a stronger and more prosperous economy now and, more importantly, for years to come.

• Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, is the U.S. Representative for the Central Coast of California and the incumbent in the race for the 24th Congressional District.