As the Infrastructure Package is Decided, the Private Sector Can Step Up | Opinion

As lawmakers work to whittle down a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill, this much is clear: The public overwhelmingly supports its goals. Americans said "62-32 percent that they support a $3.5 trillion spending bill on social programs such as child care, education, family tax breaks, and expanding Medicare for seniors," a Quinnipiac poll found. As Newsweek reported, even among Republicans the package has more supporters than detractors.

The bill tackles a long list of issues, including immigration and border security, clean energy, affordable housing and more. But the full wish list won't be granted. With certain lawmakers pushing to shrink the bill, everyone involved seems to have accepted that it must be reduced to have a shot at passing.

In one sense, this reduction is bad news for startups. As TechCrunch explained earlier this year, the government investments into numerous arenas "will, either directly or indirectly, be a huge boost to a number of startups and large tech companies whose hardware and software services will enable much of the work the Biden administration wants done." Government spending can help fuel growth for these businesses—less spending means less opportunity.

Still, when some spending is lifted out of the bill, business owners and entrepreneurs like me can also seek to use the change as an opportunity. As the package comes down, the private sector can step up in a different way.

Popularity Shows Demand

The popularity of the $3.5 trillion bill, along with the separate $1.2 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, shows a growing demand in America for new solutions to big problems. The reason so many people want big new programs to pass is that they're rightfully fed up. They've dealt with years of failure to address problems that hurt so many parts of their daily lives—not just decrepit roads and bridges, but lack of affordable food, child care, job training and so much more.

Sunrise hits the U.S. Capitol dome
Sunrise hits the U.S. Capitol dome. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The package is like a template for the priorities millions of Americans share. Some of those priorities won't be funded in this bill—at least, not to the extent many people had hoped. When that happens, entrepreneurs can turn to private investors to show the unmet demand. We can say: The American people have made clear that they want solutions; the government did not ultimately fund these parts of what they're looking for; so let's tap into that unmet demand. Let's grow our offerings and bring our solutions directly to the people looking for them. Our startups are the supply to meet their demand. After all, many of the most successful businesses were designed to solve problems.

My work focuses on mortgage servicing, a slice of the economy that often determines whether people can hold onto their homes amid hardship. Mortgage origination has gotten a great deal of attention in recent years, but servicing—which can be handled by a different company from the lender—has remained riddled with problems. These struggles are especially acute for minorities who, according to a Fed study, have borne the "brunt of COVID-19's impact on the mortgage market." The entire industry is beset by outdated, often useless technology. Brace focuses on fixing all this.

Looking at the text and analyses of the bill, I see that it includes funding aimed at helping people stay in their homes, especially in areas suffering from high rates of foreclosure, eviction or abandonment. If a final bill passes, I'll see what's in it and what isn't. And I'll turn to investors and mortgage servicing companies to show how my startup can help in ways that the bill doesn't.

Entrepreneurs in other fields can do the same. Take agriculture for example. The bill contains funding to help farmers grappling with climate change. This marks an opportunity for entrepreneurs who are creating new farming technologies. But even if some of the public funding in the bill is reduced, these entrepreneurs can turn to private investors and farmers to show how they can help meet the unmet demand.

This same idea applies to numerous areas that are listed among the bill's priorities, from coastal resilience to hard rock mining to clean energy for low-income families.

Building Relationships with the Public Sector

The bill's reduction can also present an opportunity for entrepreneurs to build new relationships with the public sector, including with specific lawmakers who want to bring solutions to their constituents.

We can show them what our startups are doing, and how they're making a difference. We can show them ways that they might be able to bring these types of solutions directly to their home communities even without support from the spending bill. We can work toward a win-win for everyone involved.

Successful businesses know how to pivot. Some that have hoped for a boost from the spending bill will have to find it in other ways. The ability to adjust is one of the most crucial business skills a business leader can have. Come what may from Washington over the next few weeks, those of us in the private sector can find a way to move forward—and to help "build back better."

Eric Rachmel is founder and CEO of Brace.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.