Mr. KERRY. Mr. President, I rise today to honor America’s single greatest economic resource: our small businesses. Small businesses drive our economy, making up 99 percent of all firms, and today marks the first day of the annual National Small Business Week celebration. This week, we honor the firms that are working year round to provide goods and services to us all. Every day, small businesses and entrepreneurs are making innovations, creating new jobs, and pushing our economy forward. In fact, more than 50 percent of our nation’s GDP and more than two-thirds of all new jobs in our economy are attributable to small businesses. From the high-tech startup and the small manufacturer to the family-owned bookstore and the lemonade stand run by the little girl down the street, small businesses and entrepreneurs are an exciting part of our communities. And the opportunities they create represent the American Dream.

Given the importance of small businesses to our economy, it is only logical that there would be a federal agency dedicated to promoting and protecting their interests. The Small Business Administration, which I am sure my colleagues are well aware of, serves as an indispensable small business advocate and resource within the federal government. With offices and strategic resource partners across the country, the SBA is able to serve entrepreneurs at the local level by providing training, mentorship, and valuable resources and at the national level by encouraging agencies to extend contracts to small businesses and to develop small-business friendly regulations.

The SBA offers a number of programs designed to help small businesses overcome obstacles to success. I am proud to support these programs, which tackle issues ranging from entrepreneurial development and access to capital to federal contracting and trade assistance.

Without these SBA resources, thousands of small businesses would not have grown, survived tough times, or even been created. Once small businesses like Staples, Intel, Nike, America Online, Black Enterprise Magazine, Eskimo Joe’s, Callaway Golf, FedEx, Hewlett-Packard, Jenny Craig, Gymboree, Ben & Jerry’s, Winnebago, Sun Microsystems, and Outback Steakhouse all received assistance through at least one of the SBA’s programs. These businesses started out small but are now household names. They prove that their owners had excellent business ideas even though traditional lenders or venture capitalists would not take a chance on them. The SBA gave these once small businesses an opportunity to grow, helping them to get their foot in the door and eventually bring new products to markets across the country and the world. The long-term gains that our economy experiences from helping these companies are too numerous to list entirely, but they include thousands of jobs, a stronger economy, increased opportunities and millions in additional tax revenue, which has paid for the SBA’s budget many times over.

Mr. President, while helping them grow is a part of SBA’s mission, many small businesses are not looking to become large corporations, and these too need SBA’s assistance and support. Every small business is important. Our neighborhoods couldn’t function and would not be the same without the local dry cleaner, the corner market, the day care provider, the hardware store, the car mechanic, the restaurant, and countless other small businesses. Whether family-owned or a franchise, an S Corp or a sole-proprietor, fast-growing or home-based, all small businesses contribute greatly to our economy. And for decades, the SBA has been there to help.

According to SBA Administrator Hector Barreto’s recent testimony before the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, the SBA backed a record $21.3 billion in loans and related financing to small businesses last year. Of that money, nearly one-third of it went to businesses owned by women or minorities. The SBA’s major technical assistance programs reached a record number of clients last year, and the procurement assistance programs aided more than 37,000 small businesses. These impressive figures demonstrate that the entrepreneurial sector of our economy is alive and flourishing, in part because of the SBA. It is up to us, in the federal government, to ensure that this entrepreneurial spirit continues to thrive.

This week, in honor of National Small Business Week, the SBA is hosting SBA Expo ’05, which serves to highlight the year’s greatest achievers and small business advocates. I am proud to join Chair Snowe and several other members of Congress as an Honorary Co-Chair of this event, where the SBA will also honor the National Small Business Person of the Year and state winners, including Massachusetts’ own Fred Curtis, Jr. of Curtis Tractor Cab. Mr. Curtis has worked tirelessly to expand his company, growing from 21 employees in 1988 to 221 employees last year. Demonstrating the value that a small investment can give, Curtis Tractor Cab has grown more than 700 percent since receiving an SBA 504 loan from the Worcester Business Development Corp. I thank Mr. Curtis for his important contributions to the Worcester area. I know I speak for the small-business community in Massachusetts when I say we are very proud to have an entrepreneur like Mr. Curtis representing our state with this award.

Mr. President, I also want to commend all of the SBA award winners this week. Their contributions to their states, communities, and our national economy are immense. In addition, I want to specifically congratulate Steven Stultz, the National 2005 Financial Services Champion of the Year. Much of what the SBA does involves access to capital, and Mr. Stultz has been a ubiquitous leader for the greater lending community. He is an active member of the National Association of Development Companies (NADCO), sits on the Board of Directors for CDC Small Business Finance, and is in his second year of a three-year term as chairman of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders (NAGGL). Mr. Stultz’s dedication and leadership have propelled the 7(a) and 504 loan programs into powerful economic development tools. He has worked closely with Congress, particularly with the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, to make necessary and thoughtful changes to the SBA’s several loan program. I am thankful and supportive of his tireless advocacy and work to make access to capital easier for small businesses nationwide. As a tribute to the SBA and the 25 million small businesses in the nation, Chair Olympia J. Snowe and I are today introducing a resolution, S. Res 120, to honor their impact on our nation and our economy. As the resolution indicates, the SBA has assisted more than 20 million entrepreneurs throughout its history. However, despite the agency’s noble mission, its assistance to small businesses is being threatened by this Administration, which has cut funding to the SBA by 36 percent since 2001 -- more than any other federal agency. One can only imagine, Mr. President, how much more the SBA could have done for small businesses this year with just the same funding it received in 2001. We may never know the true cost these cuts have had on the future growth of our economy. How many Intels were passed up for funding, how many rural businesses weren’t able to get management assistance, and how many jobs weren’t created?

Mr. President, small businesses give entrepreneurs the opportunity to pursue their passion, they give parents the opportunity to stay at home with kids while supplementing the household income, they give people the opportunity to be their own bosses, they empower women and minorities, and they spark innovation. Small businesses are vital to the success of our country and our economy, and we must do everything in our power to ensure our small businesses and entrepreneurs have the greatest resources in the world.

Thank you.