Entrepreneurship can drive economic renewal, Kauffman president says

Wendy Guilles, acting president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation | Courtesy of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Wendy Guilles| Courtesy of the Kauffman Foundation

The U.S. economy has shown signs of growth, with job creation up and the unemployment trending downward. But the economy doesn’t just need growth; it needs renewal, and entrepreneurship is key to bringing that about.

That was the message delivered by Wendy Guilles, acting president and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, during the organization’s annual State of Entrepreneurship address on Wednesday.

The address, held at the National Press Club in Washington, was the sixth given by the Kauffman Foundation, the Kansas City-based foundation focused on entrepreneurship and education.

Guilles said in her speech that two age groups, baby boomers and millennials, are driving entrepreneurship in the U.S. The aging boomers and rising millennials have an interesting mix of experience and innovation, she said.

“We’re optimistic that millennials and boomers, together, can lead to the entrepreneurship renewal that America so sorely needs,” Guilles said.

Millennials and boomers bring useful but different skill sets to the table, Guilles said. Millennials are one of the best-educated generations in U.S. history, and they have been exposed to entrepreneurship from young ages. In fact, entrepreneurship is the fastest-growing activity on campuses of higher education.

Baby boomers have years of experience and specialized skills to offer, Guilles said, and they usually have higher levels of expendable capital.

She also pointed out that business creation is on the rise. Though the creation of new businesses dropped by 31 percent during the economic recession, it is now climbing back to pre-recession levels. New and young companies create most of the new jobs in this country, according to Kauffman Foundation data.

“Only entrepreneurs can create the millions of jobs we need for our future,” Guillies said. “Only entrepreneurs can renew the dynamic and innovative spirit that has made America great.”

The Kauffman Foundation will be creating what it calls the “New Entrepreneurial Growth Initiative,” which will bring together researchers and policy experts to “focus on what is needed to renew entrepreneurial capitalism.” The initiative will also partner with the Census Bureau to improve data associated with new business creation.

“As part of Kauffman’s new entrepreneurial strategy, we will be working more intentionally than ever to support communities, including Kansas City and others, to boost their entrepreneurial ecosystems,” Guillies said.

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