WASHINGTON – United States Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee Chair Mary Landrieu, D-La., today introduced a resolution honoring the nation’s small businesses during National Small Business Week.
The resolution can be found here.
Below are Senator Landrieu’s remarks introducing the resolution on the Senate floor today:
This week is Small Business Week in America. All over our country we are celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit of the over 27 million small businesses in America that really serve as a backbone of our economy.
Just yesterday I was with Administrator Karen Mills as she opened Small Business Week at one of the local hotels here, where there are hundreds of small business owners receiving awards from all of our states for the extraordinary work that they have done in opening, starting, building their businesses at even these challenging times…
It's exciting that many of these small businesses owners are here with us in Washington this week. So I wanted to come to the floor to speak about our business owners, some of the challenges they're facing, and to acknowledge that there will be a resolution that we're asking to be cleared this week in honor of these millions of firms.
Madam President, as you know, Main Street firms pump almost $1 trillion into our economy every year, creating two-thirds of all new jobs and accounting for more than half of America’s workforce.
Sometimes when people see corporations and businesses and they read the headlines about General Motors or other large companies – Exxon, Shell come to mind – those are good examples of national and international companies. But they're not necessarily examples of where all the jobs are, contrary to common belief. The jobs, they're hard to see sometimes because they're in small places, neighborhoods and main streets, farm roads throughout our country.
Small entrepreneurs – employing themselves, maybe two or three or 10 or 15 other people – are building the backbone of the American free enterprise system. These are the family businesses throughout the country whose thread still weaves the American dream. The dream of working for yourself, being your own boss, setting your own hours, never working less than you would probably in a large company, always working more, but it’s quite rewarding. A business you can pass down to your children and grandchildren, who earn their way in the business.
This is what keeps the spirit of America going forward. These are the businesses that we honor this week. They are the technological start-ups that produce cutting-edge clean-energy sources, lifesaving medical advances, and provide safer equipment for our troops protecting our way of life. They make better construction materials that build new schools and better homes and businesses that fix our roads and our bridges. These are the small entrepreneurs out there that we honor this week.
Madam President, as you and our other colleagues know, small businesses are in a world of hurt. They're in trouble. They're in very, very troubled waters; very, very difficult times. As American consumers pinch pennies to pay the bills, small business owners scramble to pay their own bills.
Entrepreneurs are being, unfortunately, turned away from many traditional capital sources. Many of these small businesses have never in their history in business missed a payment or been late on a payment. Yet, we're hearing some very sad and troubling stories in the Small Business Committee. Ones like Robert Cockerham, whose wife I believe was with him, if my memory serves. He is a car dealer who took his life savings and started Car World.
Like many business owners, he put everything into this business. He became one of the highest-selling dealerships in New Mexico, an exciting opportunity for him and his family. But yet, as this recession unfolded, he was forced to close some of his dealerships and lay off workers. He thought that most of his tough decisions were behind him, only to find that a bank came in and constricted his line of credit. He had never missed a payment or been late.
Unfortunately, now his business is in a very dire situation. That is why it's important for us to press forward on everything we can through the Small Business Administration, through the stimulus package, trying to reach business owners like this that have not done anything wrong. They've simply gotten caught up in one of the worst economic downturns in recent memory.
We need to do more, and we will. That's what our efforts are here today, in the previous weeks and hopefully in the weeks to come. I'm proud to say that we've taken some important steps, but we need to do so much more.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act took bold steps to increase access to capital for our nation's entrepreneurs. In the Small Business Committee, we worked to temporarily eliminate fees on SBA loans. I'm proud to report that the week that that new rule went into effect we saw an immediate uptick of 25 percent of new loans being made through the SBA because of the reduction and elimination of those fees. The Recovery Act has helped to stimulate new lending and will continue, hopefully, to do so. We think, based on what is in the Recovery Act, that it will pump about $16 billion in new loans and venture capital to small businesses in America.
I continue to be concerned, however, about the road ahead for so many of our small businesses – not only in New York, the state, Madam President, that you're representing – but in Louisiana as well, where our unemployment rate, thankfully, is lower than the average but nonetheless our businesses are struggling. So we must double our efforts. I want to work with my colleagues in the House to reauthorize the Small Business Administration and its critical programs. These initiatives have assisted entrepreneurs in starting and growing their businesses and were responsible, according to our records, for 1.5 million jobs created or sustained last year.
One of these small business owners is Bob Baker, the owner of Baker Sales, a pipe and fence distributor in Louisiana and the state's small business owner of the year.
I met Bob Baker just yesterday. He encourages his employees to take advantage of the free classes the local Small Business Development Center offers. He has taken advantage of the Center's counseling to cope with financial difficulties. These days, Bob reports he's doing better than most small business owners. He's stabilized his line of credit at a Chase Bank, but knows right now he can't expand because of the current situation.
But, Madam President, let me say, if we're going to pull out of this recession – and I believe we will – it is going to be because small business pulls us out. Not the giant corporations, not the multinationals, but the entrepreneurs that will put their face to the wind and move forward in difficult times.
The least we can do is reauthorize our Small Business Administration, make it as robust and as effective and agile and muscular as possible to give them the help that they need. So to help Bob Baker, to help Robert Cockerham and small business owners like them who have testified before our Committee, let us redouble our efforts to get our work done.
We must also, in conclusion, make sure that the billions of dollars in stimulus money are moving to small businesses as required by law. I will be having a hearing this week in my Committee, and I want to thank so many of my members, particularly Senator Shaheen, Senator Hagan, Senator Cardin, who have been particularly aggressive in this effort. I thank them very much.
So, again, it's Small Business Week. Pat a small business person on the back. Thank him for doing his work or her work, because this will be the group that leads America back to strength.