WASHINGTON – United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary Landrieu, D-La., today chaired a committee roundtable entitled “Investing in Small Business: Jumpstarting the Engines of our Economy,” focused on steps the Federal Government can take to strengthen small businesses, create new jobs and encourage entrepreneurship. To view the roundtable online visit here.

“Any economic recovery plan must make growing and strengthening small businesses a top priority,” Sen. Landrieu said. “Today’s roundtable is the first of many steps toward making the Federal Government a better partner to small businesses as they look to expand and create jobs. There is no better way to assess the current economic crisis for small businesses than hearing from them firsthand.”

Small businesses comprise more than 99 percent of the nation’s firms and employ more than half of the workforce. In the past eight years, funding for the Small Business Administration (SBA) has been cut by 26 percent, or nearly $500 million – the largest cut of any Federal agency. Sen. Landrieu focused today’s roundtable on what reforms can be made to improve SBA programs, how the Federal Government can provide tax relief to small firms, how the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) can be changed to address the small business credit crisis more effectively and what provisions should be included in a stimulus package aimed at assisting entrepreneurs.

“From today’s conversation, I hope to work with Ranking Member Snowe and other committee members to devise and implement innovative solutions to ensure that Federal Government programs serve as stepping stones for small businesses, not stumbling blocks,” Sen. Landrieu said. “We will work to restore SBA funding to its appropriate level, make small business lending more affordable and accessible, and implement other initiatives to help jumpstart the engines of our economy to create new jobs. We will fight to ensure that small businesses lead the nation out of our current economic troubles.”

“Our Committee has a bold and ambitious agenda to get Federal policies on the side of small businesses, so that our nation's entrepreneurs can be at the forefront of the economic recovery our country so urgently requires,” said Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, R-Maine, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “Today, we have a prime opportunity to learn from small business owners and their representatives about what they feel should be done to optimize the government’s tools that assist them in creating new jobs and accessing capital. From combating the credit crunch that plagues small business lending, to reducing stratospheric health care costs, to bolstering vital funding for the Small Business Administration, I pledge to continue and strengthen my work with Chair Landrieu as legislative advocates for our nation’s job generators.”

“Small businesses are the engine that powers American economic growth,” said Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. “In these challenging times for our country, it is essential that our economic policies focus on growing small businesses, expanding their access to capital, providing them with tax relief and increasing their ability to create good paying jobs. I look forward to working with the Committee to make the priorities of small businesses a central component of our economic recovery plans.”

“Small business will be the economic engine that creates jobs and drives this country out of our recession. But they need our help to survive these tough times and thrive when the recession is over,” said Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md. “I applaud Chairman Landrieu for holding this Roundtable at such a critical time, just as the Senate is set to consider the details of an economic recovery package. We must ensure that federal money and contracts flow to small, women-owned, and minority businesses.”

“To get our economy back on track, we need to create jobs, and one of the best ways to do that is to protect existing small businesses and encourage entrepreneurs to create new ones,” said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. “As a former small business owner, I know firsthand that small businesses are the engine that drives America’s economy. This is especially true in New Hampshire, where approximately 85% of businesses have 19 or fewer employees. Small businesses are facing enormous challenges under this recession. I look forward to working with Chairwoman Landrieu and my colleagues on the Committee to give small businesses the support they need as we consider how best to revitalize our nation’s economy.”

“Small businesses play an integral role in providing innovation and are the backbone of the American economy,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. “As a former small business owner, I know that addressing the issues facing small businesses across this country is a critical part to our economic recovery.”