While doom-and-gloom stories often monopolize today's headlines, there is positive news to share about the U.S. economy. America's energy renaissance is playing a significant role in transforming communities across the country. The energy industry is playing a critical role in growing our economy, offering opportunities for entrepreneurs and small businesses while keeping costs affordable. But more can be done to leverage America's newfound energy leadership, which will strengthen our economy and international standing.

At a recent event hosted by the American Petroleum Institute I joined a panel of experts with various perspectives on energy. Though representing diverse constituencies — labor, entrepreneurs and small business, the minority community and veterans — we shared a vision on energy: The enactment of pro-development policies to enhance economic opportunity and growth. The panel discussed and commented on a newly-released report by Wood Mackenzie that examines the benefits that several pro-development policies would have for our economy, including energy exports.

Over the last decade, record levels of unconventional oil and natural gas development have made the U.S. a world leader in energy production. As of February 2015, the U.S. produced more than 9.2 million barrels of oil per day. In 2014, it produced almost 32 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. These record-breaking numbers have been a boon to the U.S. economy. The potential for more growth and widespread opportunity for workers, entrepreneurs, consumers, innovators and investors is extraordinary, yet outdated policies hold us back.

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We know, for example, that growth in energy production is fueling entrepreneurship and small business jobs. While overall employer firms have declined in the U.S., they are increasing in the energy sector — growing in the range of 4.1 percent to nearly 30 percent in key energy sectors, according a report by my organization released last year.

With new business growth come new jobs, which have skyrocketed in the industry. Our economy would get more of the same if the energy industry were allowed to engage globally through exports. In fact, the Wood Mackenzie study projects an increase of 2.3 million new jobs under a pro-development scenario. This scenario removes the crude oil export ban by 2016 and the approval of all liquefied natural gas export terminals (by the Department of Energy).

Again, many of these jobs will be small business jobs. The reality is that America's oil and gas sector is overwhelmingly comprised of small and medium sized businesses. In fact, among the five key energy sectors SBE Council examined in our report, employer firms with fewer than 20 employees comprised 58 percent to 91 percent of total firms in the industry.

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Unfortunately, red tape, political pandering and a lack of education about energy exports is keeping opportunity out of reach. Current government policies and delays that limit exports of natural gas and crude oil restrict investment and production. That limits small business's economic and employment growth. A study by IHS projects an increase of as many as 240,000 new jobs in the energy supply chain (from 2016-2030) through crude exports alone. These are quality jobs that will bolster local communities across the United States.

The growing global demand for LNG exports also presents the U.S. with an opportunity to grow jobs and new businesses. But a burdensome and convoluted approval process keeps the majority of these projects in regulatory limbo. A streamlined approach — as proposed in legislation currently before Congress — will create certainty for investors, and provide a green light for ongoing production of shale gas.

This is not a Republican or a Democrat issue, as panelists made clear at the API forum. Pro-energy policies are about making the most of an extraordinary opportunity to strengthen the economy and provide opportunities for American workers and entrepreneurs. A new American Council for Capital Formation report confirms the importance of such policies, which will also allow the U.S. to reclaim its global leadership in preserving free trade.

We compete in a global economy, and our vast energy resources allow us to leverage our innovative know-how to meet global demand. Doing so will strengthen our economy and bolster our standing as the world's energy leader.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.