Want to Create Jobs & Transform Communities In This Jobless Recovery?

John Kramer
John Kramer · July 26, 2010

Arlington, Va.—Mired in a nationwide jobless recovery, state and local governments have the power to create jobs and transform communities if they do one simple thing:  get out of the way.

That is the conclusion of a series of reports released today by the Institute for Justice (IJ), a public interest law firm based in Arlington, Va., that litigates nationwide on behalf of entrepreneurs.  The reports, titled “The Power of One Entrepreneur,” spotlight five different entrepreneurs who sought to pursue their share of the American Dream by creating jobs for themselves and others, but found needless and anti-competitive government regulations in their way.  Each entrepreneur stood his or her ground and, represented by IJ, filed suit against the government.  Of these five, one is still litigating, three won and went on to create dozens (if not hundreds) of jobs for themselves and others, and one lost and had to relocate her business to another state to pursue a productive livelihood; she now employs more than 100 people in nine different states—but not in her home state, which blocked her pursuit of starting a new and innovative business.

“Entrepreneurs ensure your favorite bagel and cream cheese are ready for you first thing in the morning, make your computers run like a top, transport you to and from the office, and more,” said John Kramer, IJ’s vice president for communications.  “Yet, despite all they do for us each day—and all they want to do to make our lives better through free enterprise—too often they find government-imposed roadblocks standing in their way.  IJ created these reports to put a human face on the issue of economic liberty so state and local government officials could better appreciate what is lost when they tie up entrepreneurs in red tape or, worse, completely block entrepreneurs from entering the marketplace at all.”

“How can we create long-term, dynamic growth?” Kramer asked.  “That power lies where it always has in America:  in the power of one entrepreneur.”

Those featured in the series of “The Power of One Entrepreneur” reports are from Knoxville, Tenn.; Dallas, Texas; Redmond, Wash., New York City and Tupelo, Miss.:

Funeral home and cemetery owner Kim Powers Bridges from Knoxville, Tenn., battled bureaucrats in her home state of Oklahoma where she wanted to sell caskets online.  Unsuccessful in that legal fight, she grew a brick-and-mortar business in Tennessee and now has holdings in nine states from the Gulf Coast to New Mexico and Colorado.  To read about the dramatic lengths this entrepreneur went to in order to recover and restore the remains of those entrusted to her after Hurricane Katrina hit her newly purchased Mississippi cemetery, visit:  www.ij.org/Bridges.

High-tech entrepreneur Thane Hayhurst from Dallas not only helps businesses across the state keep their computers running at peak efficiency, he also places skilled high-tech workers from across the nation in hard-to-fill jobs in Texas and he volunteers for local community centers.  Despite all this good work, the state of Texas is threatening to put him out of business under a new law that effectively requires anyone who examines third-party computer data to become a licensed private investigator.  Sound ridiculous?  Well, that’s because it is.  Hayhurst’s “Power of One Entrepreneur” report is available at:  www.ij.org/Hayhurst.

Seattle-area bagel businessman Dennis Ballen donates nearly as many bagels as he sells, supporting nonprofit organizations across his region.  But Ballen’s thriving enterprise was almost driven out of business by a local law that barred him from advertising his business.  Visit www.ij.org/Ballen to read about how he joined with IJ to fight for his First Amendment rights and, in the process, secured a precedent that has since freed other businesses to advertise.  And now he is the undisputed bagel king of the Northwest with 50 employees, including many individuals who would otherwise find it nearly impossible to secure a good job.

New York City commuter van owner Hector Ricketts, too, demonstrates the power of one entrepreneur.  Ricketts’ “dollar vans” have battled the politically powerful and heavily subsidized public buses for years.  Despite overwhelming odds against him, Hector continues to grow his own business that puts people to work as his vans take people to work, and he offers invaluable guidance, inspiration and mentoring to other fledgling small business owners across the Big Apple.  The Ricketts “Power of One Entrepreneur” report is available at:  www.ij.org/Ricketts.

The model Power of One Entrepreneur report (initially released in October 2009 and rereleased now with this series) featured African hairbraider Melony Armstrong from Tupelo, Miss.  Melony joined with IJ to successfully challenge an anti-competitive licensing law in her state and has since gone on to help create at least 300 jobs across the state through her advocacy and education, while also improving the lives of those around her by providing economic opportunity and demonstrating how an entrepreneur can succeed in the face of tremendous odds.  For Armstrong’s “Power of One Entrepreneur” report, visit:  www.ij.org/Armstrong.

Each of these reports tells the story of one entrepreneur, a story that could be told and retold through the daily lives of countless other entrepreneurs in small towns and big cities nationwide.

IJ Director of Strategic Research Dick Carpenter, Ph.D., who authored the Melony Armstrong report, said, “If the impact of this one entrepreneur in a relatively small Mississippi community can be as wide and deep as documented in this report, imagine the transformation entire communities of unhampered entrepreneurs could create in America’s largest cities where hope and opportunity are in such great demand.”

Institute for Justice President and General Counsel Chip Mellor said, “The power of one entrepreneur is the key to helping our nation recover from this economic slump.  It is a key to restoring our inner cities and countless lives through honest enterprise.  IJ will use each of these reports to better motivate lawmakers, rally the public and educate the media about the negative consequences of more and more red tape imposed upon small-business owners.”

Visit The Power of One Entrepreneur main page at www.ij.org/power.