Can Entrepreneurs Shore Up a Struggling US Economy?

Many have argued since it became clear the Great Recession was not a blip but the sum of an entire generation’s economic experience that entrepreneurship might just save America’s economy.

It makes sense, to some degree. The advent of the internet has made starting up and running a profitable business often virtually cost free. Of course, not all businesses can be net-based- but the argument is there to aggressively explore the option of becoming an entrepreneur to avoid long-term unemployment and the stagnation of college skills earned at a massive expense.

An Urban Entrepreneur Summit was held yesterday at Rutgers University’s Newark campus, to discuss these very issues. Newark is an interesting choice for such a discussion, as there is one particular word I- a former Newark resident- associate with that location. (Potential.) In the brief time I lived there, it astonished me that such low rents, large spaces and vibrant culture existed a seven minute Path Train ride from the West Village- yet everyone I knew was clamoring on waiting lists to get into apartments in Brooklyn at literally three times the monthly rent of an average space in Newark.

Uber-awesome Newark Mayor Cory Booker spoke to this issue at the summit:

“We believe urban markets are a gold mine,” Booker said. “They are places where people can create an enormous amount of wealth. The future of our cities is entrepreneurialism.”

Forbes quoted a Newark entrepreneur who spoke at the conference and makes a compelling argument for the opportunities that await those with an entrepreneurial bent:

Conference attendee Peter Learmont, who has run a small Newark-based publishing company for more than three decades, said he started Porta-Print Publishing Inc. with just the $10 dollars required to open a bank account and family members as employees. He’s grown his business and weathered the recession, but went at the entrepreneurial summit to learn about applying for federal contracts and to see whether financial help was available to small business owners to provide better benefits packages for employees.

“After 35 years, one thing I tell people is you have to stick with it,” Learmont said, referring to the advice he gives other aspiring entrepreneurs. “If you love doing it, it’s not a job.”

Learmont’s point is compelling, and possibly holds the key to circumventing the effects of the recession for quite a few Americans. Have you considered the route of self-employment or a startup during these sucky economic times? Do you think small business is the route to job creation?