Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

Dec 20 2016

President Signs into Law Heitkamp’s Bipartisan Bill to Make Sure ND Small Businesses & Startups have Seat at the Table

Senator’s Bill Would Make Sure Small Businesses have a Voice as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Creates Rules that Impact How Companies Attract Capital and Expand Operations

Small Businesses Account for 96 Percent of ND’s Employers and Two-Thirds of ND’s Private-Sector Workforce

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp today announced that the president signed into law her bipartisan bill to make sure small businesses and startups have a seat at the table when new federal rules are written on how they can raise funding and access the resources they need to succeed.

Introduced with Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada and cosponsored by Democratic Senator Gary Peters of Michigan, Heitkamp’s SEC Small Business Advocate Act will help make sure small businesses – which make up about three-fifths of North Dakota’s private-sector workforce – have a strong voice on federal rules that apply to private enterprises. Too often, these rules do not distinguish between large and small businesses, leaving small businesses at a disadvantage. Now law, Heitkamp’s bill will create an Office of the Advocate for Small Business Capital Formation within the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – the nation’s regulatory authority on protecting investors, facilitating capital formation and keeping the U.S. marketplace fair and efficient – to help small businesses and startups advocate for policies that help them build investments in their companies as well as jobs across the country. The legislation, which unanimously passed in both the House and Senate, was initially introduced by U.S. Representative John Carney (D-DE) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The senators passed their bipartisan companion bill in the U.S. Senate in April.

Small businesses make up almost 96 percent of North Dakota’s employers, with close to 195,000 workers employed by small businesses statewide. Across the country, small businesses make up almost half of the country’s private-sector workforce from 2002 to 2010, creating about two-thirds of the nation’s net new jobs between mid-2009 and 2011.

“We can do more to level the playing field for small businesses and startups in rural America by making sure they have a seat at the table when it comes to federal rulemaking,” said Heitkamp. “Small businesses make up 96 percent of North Dakota’s employers, but when it comes to the rules of private enterprise, they don’t always have a voice – and are many times swept up in rules aimed at larger, more powerful players – putting them at an immediate disadvantage. With a little North Dakota commonsense, we can change that. Now law, my bipartisan bill will make sure the challenges small businesses and startups face are considered when it comes to writing the rules that impact them. We can encourage innovation and entrepreneurial growth, and we can do it by making sure our small businesses and burgeoning startup communities are heard.”

“Nevada’s small businesses employ over 428,000 jobs for its workers. Yet, these economic engines rarely have their voice heard in the regulatory process. I teamed with Senators Heitkamp and Peters on bipartisan legislation to ensure that the more than 230,000 small businesses in the state get a fair shake from the SEC. I’m proud to say the SEC Small Business Advocate Act has now been signed into law. This is a prime example of how putting the needs of small businesses first encourages hiring of new employees and growth of our nation’s economy,” said Heller.

“Michigan is home to over 850,000 small businesses, which hire locally, give back to their communities, and boost economic growth across the state,” said Peters. “The SEC Small Business Advocate Act will help ensure these small businesses have a seat at the table when critical decisions impacting them are made, and I’m pleased that this bipartisan legislation has now been signed into law.”

A member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, Heitkamp has been working to spur opportunities that promote innovation and economic growth, particularly in North Dakota and in rural communities across the country. In the Fargo-Moorhead area alone, about one-third of startups named the challenge of raising early stage funding as the biggest hurdle to growing their businesses.

To alleviate part of that challenge, Heitkamp introduced Startup Entrepreneur Empowerment Delivery (SEED) Act in April by providing the small seed funding small businesses and startups need to grow. By creating a federal pilot program granting up to $120,000 in federal funds to ten small cities across the country which would be awarded to startups in the communities, Heitkamp’s SEED Act would invest in communities across the country with populations of 200,000 or less with the aim of identifying and promoting innovative ideas emerging in more rural communities throughout the country between New York and Silicon Valley.

Since entering the U.S. Senate, Heitkamp has been meeting with leaders in the startup and small business communities across the state to better understand their needs and concerns. In July 2015, Heitkamp brought U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet to Fargo for the first U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship field hearing in North Dakota. At the hearing, and during a separate meeting with successful female entrepreneurs in Bismarck about collaborative strategies to encourage and support women-owned small businesses, Heitkamp and Contreras-Sweet spoke with local entrepreneurs about the roadblocks they face in starting or growing their businesses.

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Contact Senator Heitkamp's press office at press@heitkamp.senate.gov