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Small Business Administration 2005 Expo ? Luncheon remarks

Monday, April 25, 2005 - 8:00pm

Washington, D.C.


April 26, 2005

Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. The SBA and the U.S. Chamber have developed an especially close partnership, and that makes a lot of sense because we serve the same constituency—all of you.

It's refreshing to be in Washington and have the opportunity to speak to a group of people who actually create the jobs, provide the health benefits, and meet a payroll.

Some people who stay in this city long enough begin to believe that policy experts, lawmakers, lawyers, and lobbyists are responsible for the success of our economy.

But you're the doers. You're the risk-takers. You're the types who pursue a business idea scribbled on a napkin. You're the ones who have had to go without paying yourself because payroll was tight that week and you had to take care of your employees before you took care of yourself.

The Chamber of Commerce recognizes your sacrifices and your invaluable contributions to the U.S. economy and our way of life. You won't find a stronger supporter of small business in Washington.

We're an organization of and for small businesses. In 1912, a group of several hundred businesspeople from around the country got together in Washington to form a body that would represent them in the nation's capital.

A lot of those businesspeople were operators of small enterprises who were too busy making the economy go to worry about what was happening in Congress.

And so they formed the U.S. Chamber to watch out for their interests. Today, 96% of our 3 million members are small businesses.

Even the Chamber's building is symbolic of small business ideals. Hanging from the ceiling of our international Hall of Flags—where U.S. presidents and foreign government leaders speak—are the flags of the twelve great explorers.

Who in history took a greater risk than they? They put everything at stake in search of something they weren't even sure existed. The potential rewards were great, but the risk of failure was even greater. I'm sure you can relate.

Well, those explorers were immortalized for taking a risk. They discovered the New World. They planted the seeds of entrepreneurship and commerce in a new country. And their traits are evident in our nation's small business owners.

Today's economic landscape is full of small business roadblocks. In many ways, we're making it harder rather than easier for small businesses to succeed in this country, and that's like strangling the goose that lays the golden egg.

Health care costs are going through the roof, and small firms are getting priced out of the market. Congress must allow small businesses to band together through associations to gain added leverage for negotiating prices.

The cost of government regulations in this country is more than the entire GDPs of many nations around the world.

No one can convince me that the agencies are putting forth an effort to ensure that the costs of regulations don't outweigh the benefits.

Lawsuit abuse is out of control, and business is paying a heavy price—$129 billion a year, in fact. Last year, the Chamber released a study showing that 77% of that total—an incredible $88 billion—is the cost to small businesses with $10 million or less in revenue.

For companies with $1 million or less in revenue, the cost is $35 billion. Through the Institute for Legal Reform, the Chamber is marshaling business community resources to fight back against the trial bar, and we're having success on both the federal and state levels.

Rising energy costs are a major economic threat. The Chamber is aggressively lobbying for an energy strategy that increases domestic energy production, including that of alternative and renewable fuels.

International trade is another issue extremely important to our economic future, and one that small businesses need to pay greater attention to.

95% of the world's consumers live outside the United States, so we need to become more aggressive in reaching them, because if we don't, our competitors will.

There's a big battle brewing over a free trade deal with Central America and the Dominican Republic. This deal will create a level playing field between us and them.

If Congress votes it down, the Europeans and the Chinese will gain a foothold right in our own backyard; the opportunity to foster democratic, free market institutions in that part of the world will greatly diminish; and prospects for bigger, broader U.S. free trade agreements in the future will suffer a tremendous blow.

Years from now, everyone will look back at CAFTA, as this trade agreement is known, and call it a turning point in the battle between pro-trade and protectionist voices. Small business needs to be a part of this great debate.

These are just a few of the issues at the top of the Chamber's agenda. It's absolutely essential that businesses stay engaged in the policy arena. Keep fighting. Know that your interest and involvement in these issues are important to your bottom line and to the future of the U.S. economy.

I hope to see you back in town next May, when the Chamber will host its Small Business Summit.

In the meantime, keep doing what you do best—working hard, creating jobs and wealth, and keeping the American dream alive. Thank you.