While the Nation Slept

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While the Nation Slept

Metzger David


While the Nation Slept describes the struggles of small innovative businesses in the U.S. These small firms, a subset of the small business community, strive to take an idea through the arduous innovation continuum to a marketable product. The book focuses on their innovation journey, and the contributions they make to the economy, job creation, and revenue production. The title results from the fact that these firms struggle out of sight to most of us with outrageous conduct of federal bureaucracies, large firms, a chronic lack of cash, and other challenges. The book shines a light on these struggles.

The author has worked with small businesses for over forty years. His understanding of them traces back to his father, co-owner of a small business manufacturing firm, who described the struggle of his small firm around the kitchen table. The author continued his education about these firms through his work on a House of Representatives small business subcommittee, at the U.S. Small Business Administration, and as a practicing government contracts attorney representing such firms.
The book contains numerous anecdotal success stories about these firms. For instance, Mapp Pharmaceuticals, a small firm, developed Zmapp, a pharmaceutical that helped two doctors survive when they contracted Ebola in Africa. A small innovative firm also developed LAZIK eye surgery.

A parallel story involves the federal program designed to assist these small innovative firms. In 1982, Congress enacted the Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) to fund and support them. Like these small firms, this modest program itself has struggled to survive.

The final chapter describes some of the contributions these firms have made. The SBIR program has directly improved and lowered the cost of major federal government programs. One study found that a small portion of these innovative SBIR firms contributed billions of dollars in economic growth and new wealth, hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs, and numerous new products that enhance our lives. Yet the SBIR program that funds these small firms costs the taxpayer no new expenditures, existing purely on funds that Congress already appropriated for research, a “hard to believe” aspect of this program.

Following the ten chapters, the book includes 30 pragmatic recommendations designed to assist these firms, a frank recognition they need our assistance. These recommendations would cost little, greatly assist these firms, and yet provide them the freedom to continue to innovate and enhance our way of life.