Mr. President, as ranking member of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, I rise today to join with Senator Kerry in introducing, the Small Business Lending Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2007. This bill is especially timely considering the Nation recently celebrated National Small Business Week, and this body just passed the America COMPETES Act, a bill that invests in innovation and education to improve the competitiveness of the United States in the global economy.

The impact small businesses have on our country’s economy and the technological innovations they create simply cannot be overstated. Small hi-tech firms represent the most innovative sector in America. According to the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, these businesses hold over 40 percent of the Nation’s patents, obtain 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large businesses, and secure patents which are twice as technologically significant as larger firms. With American jobs and our security at stake, it is essential that we support innovation programs to meet national challenges in defense, healthcare, energy, and information technology.

A critical partner for small businesses is the Small Business Administration, SBA, whose fundamental purpose is to “aid, counsel, assist, and protect the interests of small-business concerns.” The SBA’s methods for carrying out this mandate vary widely, but the agency’s primary tool is found in its small business lending programs. The SBA’s 7(a), 504, and micro loan programs are tailored to encourage small business growth and expansion. With small businesses representing 99 percent of all employers, creating nearly 75 percent of all net new jobs, and employing 51 percent of the private-sector workforce, it is essential that Congress affirms long-term stability in the lending programs the SBA provides to the small business community.

As it has in the past, the SBA continues to meet the demands of small businesses, both in my home state of Maine and across the county. In fiscal Year 2006, the SBA backed a net 100,197 loans totaling over $19.1 billion under the 7(a) and 504 programs. In fact, both the number of loans and the dollar amount represent record amounts for the agency—dramatically highlighting the significance of the SBA and the critical role it plays in our nation’s economy.

The foundation for the bill Senator Kerry and I are introducing today started during the 109th Congress under an extensive reauthorization process which I led. This process ultimately culminated in the unanimous Small Business Committee passage of a comprehensive SBA reauthorization bill. I firmly believe that the Small Business Lending Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2007 will help the SBA continue its legacy of achievement.

The SBA’s loan and investment programs have produced success story after success story, which include assisting the founders of Intel, Staples, and Federal Express, as well as thousands of other successful businesses. Our bipartisan measure will build upon these past successes and make the SBA even more effective. As former Chair and now ranking member of the Small Business Committee, I believe we must do everything possible to sustain prosperity and job creation throughout the United States. To achieve that goal, I have long fought to solidify and expand the reach of the SBA’s programs that have helped millions of aspiring entrepreneurs and existing small businesses.

Small businesses yearn to grow, flourish, and thrive, and the SBA has the experience and the resources to be their bridge to success. It is essential that we upgrade the SBA’s core lending programs for the 21st century entrepreneur. The American economy needs a strong and vibrant Small Business Administration. The Small Business Lending Reauthorization and Improvement Act of 2007 will build on the previous success of the Agency, and help to ensure the success of tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.