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Carly Fiorina

Can startups save the American dream?

AOL co-founder Steve Case and former H-P CEO Carly Fiorina think so, and they’ve partnered with the University of Virginia’s Miller Center to propose ways to do it.

In the report — actually titled “Can Startups Save the American Dream?” — the business leaders lay out a 5-point plan for kickstarting the country.

“Entrepreneurs are the secret sauce of America – building not only iconic companies but entire industries,” said Case in a press release introducing the report. “Historically, entrepreneurship has also been about creating pathways to the middle class, and helping people attain the American Dream. Entrepreneurs must again be at the heart of rebuilding the American economy.”

In addition to co-founding AOL, Case serves as chairman of Seattle-based UP Global, operator of Startup Weekend and Startup Week events around the globe.

So, how does the country get to that point — returning to the days when entrepreneurs fueled the country?

Steve Case
Steve Case

Here are the five ideas proposed in the report:

1. Unlock Capital for Main Street Entrepreneurs: Main Street entrepreneurs often have difficulty accessing the capital necessary to launch, sustain, or scale their operations, particularly as the recent recession forced many community banks into consolidation or collapse. By unlocking the Community Reinvestment Act and increasing Community Development Financial Institution investments, Main Street businesses will have access to a critical source of capital.

2. Accelerate Impact Investing through PRIs: Impact investing supports new and innovative models for confronting the great social challenges of our time. However, with investors yet to participate, it is essential to utilize all available sources of capital. By revising regulations governing program-related investments (PRIs) – which are grants that involve the potential return of capital – and expanding their awareness among foundations and entrepreneurs, we may accelerate impact investing and push it from the periphery to the mainstream.

3. National Contests: Empower the Next Generation of Entrepreneurial Leaders – A vibrant entrepreneurial society is predicated on an awareness of the opportunities entrepreneurship provides, the encouragement to pursue them, and the skills to launch and grow one’s own venture. By creating a national entrepreneurial competition for students at the K-12 level, students will be exposed to entrepreneurial thinking and opportunities before they begin their career path.

4. Equip Civic Leaders to Build Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: Entrepreneurial clusters have the power to transform communities and boost local and regional economies. However, civic leaders often do not have the tools or knowledge necessary to cultivate a productive entrepreneurial system. Our plug-and-play “Ecosystem-in-a-Box” concept combines the latest research with the unique qualities of local communities to provide playbooks for civic leaders to build their own vibrant entrepreneurial clusters.

5. Build a Regulatory Roadmap: Today’s regulatory environment imposes costly burdens on existing business and serves as a barrier to entry for aspiring entrepreneurs. Our proposed “Roadmap” will help new and emerging businesses navigate the regulatory landscape. In addition, it will encourage local, state, and federal regulators to offer better customer service to businesses, and help civic leaders to compete on behalf of their communities as top places to do business.

OK, so there you have it. What do you think of their plan? Full report here.

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