USA: Co-ops mentioned in bipartisan bill to create regional innovation hubs

An amendment to the bill would strengthen support for co-operatives

A bipartisan bill to create new regional hubs of innovation across the US includes co-operatives.

Introduced by Representative Susan Wild (D-PA) in July, the Regional Innovation Act of 2021 was discussed during a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology along with four other bills designed to increase innovation and competition within the sector.

Under the Regional Innovation Act, the secretary of commerce would be directed to create and promote regional innovation hubs via a grant programme. The bill also seeks to incentivise collaborative partnerships between local governments, colleges and universities, private industry, non-profits, and community organisations.

Introducing the bill, Rep Wild said: “American innovation is much more than the sum of its parts. By fostering public-private partnerships that harness the wells of talent in communities like mine, we can create regional innovation hubs that promote national competitiveness while creating good-paying jobs.

“This legislation isn’t just bipartisan, it’s common sense – every corner of our country stands to gain by incentivising the type of collaborative economic development that will ensure American resilience from the Silicon Valley to the Lehigh Valley.”

During the markup, Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) proposed an amendment to the bill that would strengthen support for co-operative businesses in this grant programme. The amendment would allow co-operative associations, co-operative development centres, and other organisations to form consortia and act as innovation hubs. The hubs would provide, among others, co-operative technical assistance, access to finance, start-ups training and support for conversions to the co-operative model.

Introducing the amendment, Congressman Bowman said: “Building community wealth is a key goal of this bill and my amendment seeks to reinforce that goal in a few different ways. If we want to democratise our economy and create new industries in way that brings everyone in, one of the best ways to do so is to put employees in the driver seat by giving them ownership and decision-making stakes in the companies where they invest their time and talent. My amendment encourages that model as well as co-operative business in general.

“In offering this amendment, I am pleased to find common ground with my colleagues across the aisle as well as those who represent rural communities. From rural electric co-ops to farmer co-operatives, some of the most exciting examples of economic democracy come from rural parts of the country and my amendment highlights that expertise.”

The amended bill awaits consideration by the full US House of Representatives.