Golden Holds Hearing with Maine’s GO Lab on Improving Federal Programs for Rural and Underserved Small Businesses

June 25, 2021
Press Release
Forest products company president testifies about red tape facing rural small businesses

WATCH FULL VIDEO HERE

WASHINGTON — House Small Business Subcommittee on Underserved, Agricultural, and Rural Business Development Chairman Jared Golden (ME-02) held a hearing this week to learn from Maine’s GO Lab, Inc. and other small businesses about how federal innovation programs could be improved to better serve rural and underserved businesses. Golden’s subcommittee heard from Dr. Joshua Henry, the founder and president of GO Lab, Inc. 

GO Lab is redeveloping the former Madison paper mill into a manufacturing facility for wood-fiber insulation—the first of its kind in the United States. Dr. Henry holds a PhD in physical and materials chemistry from Cornell University, and is a former chemistry professor at the University of Maine.

“You have a lot of training and background in things that help you with some pretty complex stuff, as well as experience helping other people understand pretty complex issues,” Golden said in his exchange with Dr. Henry. “And yet you found the bureaucratic and complicated application process for the SBA program that GO Lab competed for, and ultimately did win, to be pretty tough.” VIDEO

Dr. Henry explained that one of his colleagues had 20 years of experience applying for government grants, but found Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) to be the hardest federal grant he had ever applied for because of the numerous addenda for separate SBIR funding sources. The application process is so cumbersome, Dr. Henry explained, that the Maine Technology Institute employs full-time consultants to help small businesses complete it.

Congressman Golden also asked Dr. Henry about the issue of scientific versus economic criteria for evaluating applications for SBIR.

“Rural areas value different things than urban areas. And if the people reviewing our application are primarily from academic institutions[...] they’re going to value scientific merit, not value economic merit,” Dr. Henry said. “Our company was rejected from most of our SBIRs because of scientific merit. They didn’t view there to be scientific merit. But the impact of our future investment of $150 million on a town like Madison is immeasurably larger.” VIDEO

A member of the House Small Business Committee since he came to Congress, Golden has prioritized the needs of rural small businesses. He has placed a high priority on hearing directly from Maine small businesses, pushed to revive SBA’s Office of Rural Affairs, passed legislation to expand the Small Business Development Center program, introduced legislation to assist small businesses with the ‘last mile’ of broadband access, and much more. 

According to census data, Maine is one of the most rural states in the nation, and more than 90% of Maine businesses are small businesses.